A11y in the City

It’s field trip day. Our program coordinator, Jennifer and course instructor, Sandi organized a full-day of studio tours. We visited the following places:

I thought I’d summarize my thoughts on each road stop.

First Stop: AMI

I was impressed by our hosts’ enthusiasm for making their digital content accessible. All three had extensive knowledge of AMI’s services, in particular, their described video practices. Out of the three stops we visited, AMI was the only one that partnered with organizations like the CNIB to collect feedback from members of the disability community. Even the AMI offices space embraced accessibility – some examples included tactile markers to aid in wayfinding and light-filtering film on the windows. Each cubicle had plenty of space to accommodate an employee with a guide dog or a wheelchair. It also appeared to be a scent-free environment. As someone with scent sensitivities, it was refreshing to see such a policy in use.

Second Stop: Rogers

Our first impression of Rogers was spent at the security desk signing in and getting our IDs checked. (I was an intern at Rogers years ago and remember how tight the security was). I’ve worked in places where access cards were the norm, so it didn’t faze me as much as the others. The Rogers building is quite expansive, stretching across both sides of Mount Pleasant. With its full-service cafeteria and fitness centre, it feels a lot like a campus. Unlike AMI’s building, I didn’t see any accessible design features, immediately present. Everything was closed off to us, with the exception of the Sportsnet control room. I have zero experience with broadcasting, so I was lost in all the talk of 4K, cables and optics. I also don’t watch hockey or baseball, the sports dominating the screens at the time, so I wasn’t 100% engaged with the content. (I will add – I have a soft spot for football, especially around the Super Bowl). The control room was sensory overload – lights flashing, sounds blaring and the constant hum of the machines. I wonder if it takes occupational training to become accustomed to all the lights and sounds.

Third Stop: Shopify

Unlike the larger, corporate locations of the first two, Shopify was very hip. The office was in a non-descript, 100-year-old brick-and-beam building¬†off of King West. It had the quintessential, design studio-meets-loft feel. Other than the smaller, breakout rooms, I didn’t see any dividers or traditional cubicles. There was a cafeteria, a ping pong/recreation room and plenty of communal tables. I can see they’re aiming to create a playful, unconstrained environment. In terms of accessibility, all the furniture looked like they could be moved around and reconfigured. Based on the presentation we received, it appears that employees can work remotely. I think telecommuting would help someone who experience social anxiety or need a quieter space to concentrate and do work.

Final Thoughts

I was secretly pleased to stay in Toronto and have some familiarity with the sights. It was a nice change from trekking to Hamilton each Saturday. All three places, especially AMI and Shopify embraced inclusivity and making information accessible, as more than a job requirement. However, there was a hint of compliance (i.e. meeting AODA, CRTC regulations, etc) that underlined their involvement. It would be interesting to know how much compliance affects their business case for making their content accessible.