Accessibility Concept “Executive Summary”

(For the past several months, I have been working on the development of a solution to provide accessibility in print vehicles and to promote consumer engagement. This blog post –a draft of an Executive Summary–is part of my efforts to “open source” some of my findings.)

Executive Summary

The buying power of consumers with disabilities is in the trillions of dollars, yet this continues to be a highly underserved market. Impediments to marketing and instructional content are compounded by continued reliance on print vehicles. Print is inflexible, and thus offers limited accessibility to users faced with visual impairments and language barriers.

Furthermore, print is a “low-engagement “ medium compared to the burgeoning array of digital content options. Print cannot easily be adapted to individualized learning styles, or preferred content-consumption habits.

While devices such as the iPad are truly innovative, the accompanying chants of “print is dead” are ludicrous. Yes, publishing and distribution models are changing, but print-based communications (think packaging) are not going anywhere soon.

The solution that is outlined in the following pages (future blogs in this case) is intended to describe a “digital bridge” to allow better levels of access and engagement of content to all consumers. The solution outlined strives to address the needs of all consumers, not just those having disabilities. This is in accordance with the “universal design” framework, rooted in the field of architecture.

Universal Design holds that products, information and environments should be designed according to the following principles:

  • Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users.
  • Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Simple, Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  • Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  • Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  • Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.
  • Size and Space for Approach & Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

If you look at these principles with print communication in mind, it is evident how inaccessible a medium that print really is.

Modern print vehicles begin their lives in digital formats (Word, Quark, InDesign, Photoshop…); however, they become static and “outdated” the moment that ink hits paper. While the physical attributes and limitations of print cannot be changed, current technology offers a unique opportunity to provide users the means to better see (or hear) printed content.

The following pages (er blogs) outline the potential opportunities to leverage existing (and affordable) technology in order to provide consumers with convenient access to digital editions of print content. This digital content might be delivered in and array of accessible formations such as the following:

  • Enlarged text
  • Language translations
  • Audio
  • Video with subtitles

In addition to greater levels of accessibility, customers will have the opportunity to vault from a printed vehicle (such as a product label) to online content where there are unlimited opportunities:

  • To be educated, entertained and engaged by online content
  • To make express purchases via e-commerce capabilities

The goal of the envisioned solution is not to preserve print media; however, it is prudent for manufacturers, retailers and service providers to recognize that print content will be part of the marketing mix for some time to come. Furthermore, these organizations can take advantage of numerous emerging technologies that will allow them to more-effectively reach hundreds of millions of consumers.

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