Humber to welcome new accessible broadcast course next September

Christina Mulherin

News Reporter

The first-ever accessible broadcast course will be offered at Humber College’s School of Media Studies and Information Technology next September.

Humber Media Studies professor Anne Zbitnew said a Media Foundation program student with a hearing impairment inspired the creation of the initiative last year .

“We needed to caption all video to make sure that it was accessible to him and it made us think about accessibility in media and how if we build accessibility into the beginning of a project, then when the student’s finished it it’s fully accessible,” Zbitnew said.

Zbitnew saw the opportunity to receive a grant from the Broadcast Accessibility Fund to create the program last year. She teamed up with fellow media professor Hillary Rexe and they began their research last winter.

Zbitnew said they were careful in writing the application, being sure to highlight the importance of accessible media and why Humber should be chosen for the project.

The fund is an independent and impartial funding body that supports innovative projects providing solutions to promote the accessibility of all broadcasting content in Canada.

Richard Cavanagh, the fund’s CEO and Funding Officer, said they received a number of strong applications, but Humber’s efforts were fruitful as the school received a $130,900 grant for the creation of the world’s first accessible broadcast course.

Zbitnew and Rexe teamed up with Journalism professor and CBC veteran Mike Karapita, and the trio will develop the course.

“Hillary Rexe is the content creator, I’m managing the project from our side, Mike Karapita is working in the broadcast side of this,” Zbitnew said. “We have an amazing external advisory of people with disabilities and people with lived experience that are also going to advise us on content as well as what we’re created in terms of accessibility.”

The program will be a six module online course accessible to all students of the School of Media Studies. It will teach students various ways of making broadcast material accessible, such how to caption video and produce described video.

“When students log into their Blackboard, they’ll have all their courses and then there will be the modules on accessibility and inclusive design,” Zbitnew said.

Although the modules are not mandatory, students are encouraged to take a look at and understand the content. No credits or marks are attributed to the course but students will receive a certificate on completion.

“Our goal is to implement major changes in the School of Media Studies that will see all video, print, audio and graphic content produced in an accessible and inclusive way,” Karapita said. “So that means everything that we design and create is able to be used by anyone no matter what ability they have.

“We want to create a more inclusive Canada,” he said. “We want everyone to participate fully in our academic world and in our world beyond academia, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Zbitnew said the course would also be accessible. Lectures will be available to read, as an audio clip to listen and even by captioned video where someone will be using American Sign Language.

This information be available to Humber students and it will be shared with the rest of Canada and the world with French and English versions.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005) is legislation that standardizes accessibility to eliminate barriers in important daily activities for people living with disabilities. Zbitnew said the AODA plans to make accessible broadcast mandatory by 2025.

“We really want our students to graduate knowing accessibility, knowing inclusive design, so when they get into the workforce they don’t have to be trained. In fact they could be the trainers,” she said.

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