Chasing Accessible Reality (Originally Published 8/3/2011)

(This was post was originally published in August  2011. Some of the details in the first publishing are no longer in play —ie: Google+ has left us.  Also, the  figures of the population of consumers with visual impairments, and their buying power, need a refresh. Still these older figures provide a good discussion primer on the the size of a grossly underserved market. Many of the hyperlinks in original post were no longer valid, thus have been removed).

As some of my returning readers know, I’ve spent quite some time developing a solution framework in the area of content  accessibility and consumer engagement for  print vehicles (particularly packaging). My ideas have  been well-vetted by an array of subject-matter experts. All of them immediatlely saw the potential to sell services in their respective spaces (marketing, localization, IT, creative services…). Eventually I started referring to this idea as “accessible reality.”

While most of the opportunities would be on the services side, I realized that I wasn’t going to get very far without a product prototype.  Thus I started poring over my materials to begin pursuit of funding.

A few weeks ago, I signed into Google+ for the first time. A few moments later, I noticed that a venture capitalist, Alistaire Milne, was funding a  contest on Google+ in which users would pitch their ideas in a  Google+ post and users would vote on the idea which they thought was worthy of funding. Mr. Milne would fund the idea that garnered the most users votes (+1’s).

I wasn’t prepared to make a pitch in such a venue, but I gladly gave up part of a sunny Sunday afternoon and whittled my 100s of pages of documents and presentations down to a Google+ post. …..(Please note the Mr. Milne’s contest is no longer active. )

For those of you who are not on Google+, Please feel free to contact me if you would like an invite to Google+ or if you would like to know more about my accessible reality concept. For your convenience, below is my pitch to Alistaire Milne:

Mr. Milne, Thanks so much for the opportunity to present my “accessible reality” concept in this manner. Best of luck to all of those who are participating in this event.

For the past several months, I have endeavored to craft a solution-framework to address print–accessiblity issues that affect the vast-majority of consumers. With the aging of the population in many countries, the problem will become increasingly worse. Despite the chants of “print is dead” we are beholden to print in several areas, most notably: product-labeling. I sought to find a way to allow consumers a means locate digital editions of print content which are inherently more accessible than print vehicles.

My own inability to read ingredients, allergens, etc. on over-the-counter and prescription drug packaging and food product labels, led to my exploration of a solution. In my case, it’s mostly a chronic annoyance, but this is tremendous risk of over-dosing, allergic reaction due to inability read instructions, ingredients or disclaimers.

Research of the scope of the problem revealed that the population of consumers facing impediments to product labeling is a stunningly-large “Super-Demographic” with trillions of dollars in buying power.

Among the consumers facing impediments to product labeling (Figures US alone):

“¢ 12 million residents are classified as having blindness or low vision
“¢ 40 million senior citizens, who are over the age of 65
“¢ 78 million baby boomers (ages 47 to 65 in 2011)
“¢ 60 million residents who are not native English speakers.

The Solution Overview

Print vehicles begin their lives in digital formats ( InDesign, Photoshop…); they become static and less-accessible the moment that ink hits paper. However, current technology offers a unprecedented opportunity to provide users the means to find, and consume, digital editions of the content. Based on consumers’ preferences, content might be delivered in an array of accessible formats:

“¢ Enlarged text
“¢ Audio, “read-aloud”
“¢ Language translations

In addition to experiencing enhanced levels of accessibility, customers would have the opportunity to vault from a printed vehicle (such as a product label) to an online content experience where there are numerous opportunities:

“¢ To be educated, entertained and engaged by related online content
“¢ To interact with other consumers through social-media channels.
“¢ To make express purchases via e-commerce capabilities of retailers

The intent of the solution is to leverage existing (and affordable) technology in order to provide consumers with convenient access to digital editions of print content. Essentially, any device with a camera and an internet connection could be a candidate.

This will require a lightweight client application. This will be project-specific, based on retailer/manufacture requirements, but will likely customization of an existing software development kit (such as Google Goggles, Red Laser, etc…) to enable the “look-up” of digital content from a physical object.

However, the bulk of the effort, and the revenue opportunities, will come from the delivery of services by my strategic partners. The scope and scale of services will vary, but might include: information architecture, software development, data migration, translation services, marketing, or instructional design.

For the past several months I have been engaged in robust discussions with subject-matter experts from a number of disciplines including: blindness and low-vision researchers, content-localization experts, software architects, marketing professionals , and social media strategists. The consensus has been that is a solid concept, thus I have recently begun pursuit of funding to develop a proof of concept for presentation to prospective clients in the retail and the consumer- packaged goods spaces.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have presented this idea to you all. Please see my blog posts on accessible reality,  for a more in-depth description of the solution and my journey. Feel free to contact me.

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