Molly Watt: Talking accessibility at BBC Media City

Posted on November 7, 2016



I was lucky to be invited to speak to a the BBC’s Accessibility Champions, they had all come together from all over the country to Salford’s Media City.

A fantastic audience to talk about two of my biggest passions, accessibility and technology, speaking about the difficulties so many have in accessing the things many take for granted.

I’m always delighted to get questions after a presentation.  Several questions were based on my online experiences using the BBC website and also the BBC iplayer app.

I use the iplayer app most regularly, and I rarely watch television.

The reason for this is the use of colours on the app is far more acceptable to me with my poor vision.  The dark backgrounds are less painful on my eyes, on anybody’s eyes but especially damaged ones.

I access iplayer on my MacBook or iPad, I can personalise and the smaller screen works so much better for me.  I can position it the way I’m most comfortable, I can also Bluetooth connect my hearing aids too, unlike a television so a much better user experience.

There was lots of discussion about subtitles, the issues of speed, colours and fonts.  The BBC clearly go to a lot of trouble researching the asks and wants of various disability groups and it is fair to say it is a work in progress!

A very complicated area and of course what suits one group may well not suit another – I hear this a lot.

Isolation is another subject I touched on in my presentation.

Often those isolated for whatever reason rely on television, it is often their only link to the outside world hence the importance of fully accessible TV, it can be a lifeline.

Isolation can affect so many people, those depressed, anxious, sick, blind, disabled the ageing.   Isolation can be short term or long term. Accessing television and BBC services is important to most people, be it regularly or now and then.

Something else to consider is that not only the ‘deaf,’ ‘hard of hearing,’ use subtitles, never stereotype, just like audio is not just for the blind.

Subtitles are sometimes used to add better understanding to content, it is also used by many in public places as a preference to audio.  Equally, some may use audio as a way of relaxing or resting the eyes.

Being deafblind, my eyes are often tired or sore so subtitles are not an option, fortunately as I have fantastic modern hearing aids, Linx2 by Resound I can listen and hear audio, however, if I need to relax I switch off completely and find my peace in a silent darkened room.

I listened to several very interesting presentations before my turn. It’s always very interesting hearing how others interpret accessibility.

Many of the slides used in the other presentations were not accessible to me.  There were lots of white slides with black, red, blue even green text and very small fonts!

Hopefully the whole audience could access my slides, I used dark background and lighter text.

It was interesting to hear about the various projects and very reassuring to know people are working on making services accessible to all.

Break out sessions were organised for after lunch and I was flattered to have a great group of people join me in the ‘Match of the Day’ room for more discussion.

I enjoyed this session as it was a time to talk about more specific accessibility challenges, some great ideas and discussions.

I hadn’t realised how much the BBC does besides it’s television and radio services.

Lots of apps, games, sport, news, information, a long, long list of activities.

Each app was quite different on the eye, so lots to consider. That said, accessibility should always be built in from the very beginning.

It was great to hear my presentation had been useful, anything that makes a difference I am happy to be involved in.

After going around the room introducing each other more specific questions came. It was also a great opportunity for me to ask  questions too.

Most in the room were working in different departments but all interested and working on various aspects of accessibility, some had been working in this area for many years and some were new to it.  All were quite taken aback by my presentation and how in actual fact the work required to make things more accessible are actually quite straight forward!

A very important point that I regularly make when presenting on accessibility is that enabling accessibility features that work for me will work for most, it is not just for those with disabilities like mine.

One in five people have disabilities, we also have an ageing population.  The average person will need glasses by 45 years old and hearing deteriorates with age.  Then there are those with temporary disabilities, something as common as hay fever can cause blurry eyes for a whole season and disable a person’s ability to see properly.

It is very important that all organisations, particularly those like BBC who provide invaluable services to most consider all accessibility scenarios.

After a day of talks, questions and meeting various staff at the BBC I was then shown the ‘Blue Room,’ what an experience this was!

The Blue Room is the home of fancy gadgetry, I got to try Google glass and also noticed they had some Virtual reality headsets (of course I’m lucky enough to have already tried these!).

I was lucky to meet with a lovely lady who had been involved in making a film about aspbergers in virtual reality, something I would absolutely love to be involved in for Usher Syndrome.  I see VR as a fantastic way of enabling real empathy of a condition, of a way of life – fantastic work.

I felt my visit to Media City was very productive.  I hope I made a difference to how this group of accessibility champions consider things but also with hope that things will change for the better.

Read more of Molly’s articles for Limping Chicken by clicking here.

Molly has Usher Syndrome and spearheads her own charity, The Molly Watt Trust, where she actively raises awareness of Usher Syndrome. She is Sense’s youngest Ambassador, a motivational speaker and avid blogger. Molly can be contacted via her new personal, accessible website www.mollywatt.com or her charity websitewww.molly-watt-trust.org

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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