Graduate program is first of its kind: Breaking down barriers with accessible media

image of  Matisse Hamel-Nelis  and Janette Campbell

By Katrina Rathie, Journalism student  

While working for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), Matisse Hamel-Nelis ’19 was looking for a resource to learn more about her field and gain more knowledge of accessibility. 

“Given my background at CNIB, where the focus is on removing barriers for people who are blind and partially sighted,” says Matisse. “I had a huge passion for accessibility and accessible digital content. However, I didn't know where to turn to learn more about it, aside from YouTube videos and reading articles here and there.” 

This was until she discovered the Accessible Media Production (AMP) program at Mohawk College, and realized it was exactly what she was looking for. Developed by current program coordinator, Jennifer Jahnke, AMP is the first graduate program in Ontario to focus on accessible media production. Graduates learn accessible media skills like how to produce barrier-free content in documents, videos, and websites. Other skills include captioning and writing using inclusive language. The eight-month program also examines disability legislation that exists around the world and centers on the experiences of people with disabilities. 

“The program gave me so many useful tools and so much knowledge. I was able to transfer many skills to not just my job with CNIB, but now with my new role as VP of Communications at AbleDocs.”

Adam Spencer is a professor in the Accessible Media Production program at Mohawk College and President & CEO at AbleDocs, a company focused on improving document accessibility. He is known as one of the leading global experts in PDF and PDF accessibility technologies, meeting the needs of and creating solutions for people requiring a variety of accommodations.

“We create barriers every single day without even realizing it, but nobody sets out to create a world full of barriers,” says Adam. “It just happens. By building a mentality and teaching more people about barrier free access to everything, whether that's digital accessibility, physical space, education, or health care, we're learning how to be a more inclusive society.”

Janette Campbell ’20 applied for the AMP program because she wanted to become more accommodating as an educator. Today, she works as an accessibility specialist for the City of Mississauga.

"Web content has to be accessible, like documents and videos,” says Janette. “That's where the city, not just the city of Mississauga, but province-wide, there has been a lack of resources and knowledge. It is a huge undertaking to raise awareness, educate people and implement plans so that accessibility of web content is improved.”

Nearly everyone will need some form of accommodation at some point in their lives, whether due to illness, injury, or old age. Disabilities can be temporary or permanent and affect individuals physically or intellectually. They can also be visible or invisible to others.

“Recognize that inclusivity benefits everyone,” says Adam. “It's not just dealing with an individual single disability. It's how we're all going to interact in a society and that level of inclusivity makes us a better world and makes things easier for everyone.”