VITAC’s M-Enabling Takeaways and Wrap-Up


VITAC Learns About New Technologies, Opportunities and Challenges in the World of Accessible Media


Our blog post last week was just a preview of the M-Enabling Summit in Washington, DC held June 13-14, and attended by VITAC VP of Marketing Heather York, and Marketing Analyst Brittany Bender.

In Monday’s keynote address, Karen Peltz Strauss, Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, introduced Sen. Ed Markey (D.-Mass), “because of his work, we are in a place where  ability is no longer an afterthought.”

As discussed in last week’s post, Senator Markey discussed about 25 years ago, the ADA required physical ramps to be placed on curbs for wheelchairs, and it ended up helping everybody from parents with baby strollers to delivery people with carts. He noted similarities between these regulations and online media accessibility  and even referred to them as, “online ramps.” If everything online is made accessible, it will end up helping everyone. This was a theme throughout the summit.

The first parallel session of the day was Media on the Internet: Accessibility Challenges and Opportunities. Panelists included:

  • Chet Cooper, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, ABILITY Magazine
  • Peter Korn, Accessibility Architect, Amazon Lab126,
  • Mike Paciello, Founding Partner, The Paciello Group and WebAble.TV
  • Joel Snyder, Ph.D., President, Audio Description Associates LLC
  • Claude Stout, Executive Director, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI).
Web Accessibility_1

Joel Snyder, Ph.D., President, Audio Description Associates LLC weighs in on web accessibility online.

While many opportunities for accessibility were discussed such as captioning and audio description, the challenges and potential solutions were prominent. One of the challenges noted by Mike Paciello was that, “there’s absolutely no value proposition for accessibility.”

A solution proposed by the panel was to pressure companies and schools to make everything accessible, so that pricing for these services could come down. Another solution was to make accessibility mandated, but Peter Korn from Amazon pointed out that, “The problem with laws is that they only get us to minimums.”

The next parallel session attended by VITAC was 21st Century CVAA Scorecard, and panelists included:

  • Zainab Alkebsi, Esq., Policy Counsel, National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
  • Mark Balsano, Executive Director, Corporate Accessibility Technology Office (CATO), AT&T
  • Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind (ACB)
  • Matthew Gerst, Director, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA
  • Lise Hamlin, Director of Public Policy, Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)
  • Paul Schroeder, Vice President, Programs and Policy Group, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
  • Session chair Karen Peltz Strauss, FCC

“The question is has the CVAA been effective? The short answer is yes,” said Eric Bridges. There was discussion of the successes of the CVAA such as the captioning rules for television programming when delivered via IP.

M-Enabling_CVAA Scorecard Session_VITAC

Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind (ACB) speaking at the CVAA Scorecard session.

The day wrapped up with the FCC Chairman’s Awards for Advancements in Accessibility, presented by FCC Chariman Tom Wheeler.

These awards honor “outstanding private and public sector ventures that advance accessibility for persons with disabilities. Ventures include mainstream or assistive technologies introduced into the marketplace, development of standards, and implementation of best practices that foster accessibility.”

Tom Wheeler_FCC Chairman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler giving short keynote before the awards for accessibility and innovation.

Winners included:

  • SOS QR – an Emergency Support App for People with Cognitive Disabilities
  • UnusTactus – App Simplifies Smartphones for People with Cognitive Disabilities
  • Wearable Sign Language Recognition System Prototype Interprets Motions and Displays Text
  • Disney’s Movies Anywhere App – Syncs Audio Description with Film Action
  • Sesame Enable – Users Can Engage Smartphone Controls with Head Gestures
  • eSight Eyewear – Headset with Videocam to Help People with Low Vision
  • Honorable Mention: Convo Announce – Allows Video and Text through PA System Announcements
  • Honorable Mention: KNFB Reader – App Reads Documents Using Smartphone Camera
  • Honorable Mention: Holy Braille Project – Researches Solutions for Low-Cost Braille Display Tablets.
FCC Chairman Award winners

FCC Chairman Award Winners Pictured with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC Karen Peltz Strauss

Tuesday’s plenary panel was Aging in Place: Innovations for Lifelong Digital Access and focused on accessibility for an aging population and new technologies and innovations to keep up.

The session chair was Andrew Johnson, Managing VP, Gartner Research.  Panelists included:

  • Nancy LeaMond, Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer, AARP
  • Amy VanDeVelde, National Connections Program Manager, The OASIS Institute
  • Marc Zablatsky, VP and General Manager, Ai Squared.
Aging In Place_M-Enabling

Aging in Place session at 2016 M-Enabling Summit

This session really drove the point that currently, there are 600 million people over 60 years old and the first sense that people begin to lose is their hearing. The aging population is only going to continue to grow. By 2043, Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials will all be collecting social security.

In the first VITAC-attended parallel session of the day, Global Status of Inclusive Technology in Higher Education, Compliance and Good Practices was chaired by Amy Goldman, Co-Director and Associate Professor, Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, and accessibility issues in universities and colleges all around the world were highlighted.

Panelists included:

  • Joy Kniskern, Strategic Initiatives, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Zerrin Ondin, Ph.D., Research Analyst, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Carolyn Phillips, Director, Tools for Life, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Licia Sbattella, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Accessibility/Natural Language Processing and President’s Delegate for Disability, Politecnico di Milano (G3ict Education Task Force Chair) (Italy)
M-Enabling 2016

One of the higher education sessions at M-Enabling 2016

It was in this session that it was pointed out that universities have a set of rules, guidelines, and regulations regarding accessibility to help achieve a level of standards so that all individuals are able to learn in these institutions.

Other sessions attended by VITAC included Global Opportunities for Real Time Text, Inclusive Higher Education Forum, New Tech Enablers for Accessible Learning Tools, and Roadmap towards Equal Access in Higher Education.

Heather and Brittany also had the opportunity to explore some of the exhibits, one of which was a demo of Amazon’s Alexa, a voice-operation system that makes a lot of Amazon media and tasks accessible for blind and low-vision individuals.


Amazon’s Display at M-Enabling 2016

VITAC is dedicated to staying at the forefront of accessible media solutions and technology. By attending conferences such as M-Enabling, there is an opportunity to network and collaborate with other like-minded professionals to work together to achieve accessibility for all.

By Brittany Bender