Verizon Media unveils initiatives to improve accessibility for the disabled
In pursuit of its ongoing commitment to creating a 100% accessible environment, Verizon Media has planned a series of new initiatives to foster equitable access to entertainment and support disability advocacy across Yahoo and its other properties, the company announced today at its Yahoo Build It Forward event.
“Our mission at Yahoo is to be the most inclusive scaled digital platform to connect our customers to their passions,” said Jo Lambert, head of consumer at Verizon Media, whose portfolio also includes digital brands TechCrunch, Autoblog and Engadget.
With an increasing reliance on digital media, as well as a growing public awareness around trusted journalism, Verizon Media wants to “make sure that we’re serving these trusted sources of information and news for everybody,” including those who are blind, deaf and speech-impaired, she added. “There’s even more emphasis on making sure we can deliver the right information to our users everywhere.”
Starting April 1, each and every user-facing video on Yahoo—including original content and third-party partner media—will feature closed captioning in a boost to the brand’s hearing-impaired users. Verizon Media’s closed-caption technology will also be extended to its reserved and programmatic ad offerings for full cross-platform accessibility.
Calling it “a stake in the ground,” Lambert said the company’s universal closed captioning feature will be rolled out next week across all Verizon Media’s properties around the world. The text itself will be created using a combination of speech recognition software and “hundreds of human caption editors” who are dedicated to “accuracy and quality,” she adds. The company is captioning thousands of videos per day.
In addition, Verizon Media is donating $5 million “to help our partners advocate for accessibility,” Lambert said, with the money to be distributed among a host of accredited disability organizations including the National Association of the Deaf, the American Council of the Blind and the American Association of People with Disabilities.
The company is also launching an internal leadership group dubbed the Accessibility Council, which will be tasked with overseeing the education of employees and creation of best practices to ensure Verizon Media’s content and products are accessible to all.
Verizon Media has long been an industry leader in advocating for accessibility, taking actions including creating its state-of-the-art Accessibility Labs in California and New York, the first of which was opened nearly 16 years ago.
More recently, the company has been exploring the use of augmented reality to enhance platform equity, and in 2019, it created “The Disability Collection” in collaboration with the National Disability Leadership Alliance and Getty Images— a growing portfolio of stock images to authentically portray people with disabilities.
“People with disabilities make up 20% of the population but are featured in less than 2% of media images,” Lambert adds. “We want the products that serve our audiences to reflect our audiences.”