Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation

Transformers: Accessibility, Style, and Adaptation

This chapter focuses on what the form of media reveals about access. Form is used to capture the material, designed components of the media access experience - a television remote control, a computer keyboard, the organization of a social networking site, and the arrangements of seats in movie theater may all be considered under the rubric of "form." Certainly, form may convey cultural meanings, but it is separated from content (more explicit messages or media representations) for the purposes of analyzing access.

Much of this chapter focuses on interfaces as cases in which the form of digital media has excluded people with disabilities and has been retrofitted in order to be accessible. It returns to the specific technological standards first described in Chapter 1, and offers three new cases in which negotiations about access and form are central. These cases include: the development of the graphical user interface (GUI) and accessible work arounds; the tensions between Flash and HTML formats in the development of accessibility standards and practices; and the rise of mobile internet access via smartphones, which required adaptations of form for a wide audience and which drew upon lessons from web accessibility.

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