‘Get comfortable with failure’: How the industry can tackle accessibility

Mumbrella's Kalila Welch sits down with Guide Dogs NSW CMO Michael Apte and Keep Left ECD Blair Kimber to discuss how their new campaign pushes for a new standard in accessibility in Australian media.

Diversity and inclusion is an ongoing conversation in this industry, but according to Guide Dogs NSW CMO, Michael Apte, there is work to be done when it comes to accessibility.

The question of accessibility is broad, and understandably intimidating for much of the media and marketing industry who bare no real lived experience when it comes to disability.

However, Apte feels it’s an issue that doesn’t need to be hard, at least not when it comes to access of Australians with low vision and blindness – a group set to reach more than one million by 2030, according to 2020 Vision Australia .

“It’s really important that we recognise there are some really practical things we can all do to make communications more accessible,” he tells Mumbrella, pointing to the industry’s already proven ability to create difference through the ongoing diversity and inclusion conversation that has emerged in recent years.

“This is just that next frontier that we need to cross to make sure we’re representing these audiences, but also that we are producing content they can access”.

And as an organisation that works directly with people who have blindness and low vision, Guide Dogs NSW is taking the lead when it comes to the possibilities of accessible content.

Just a quick look at the hero video for the charity’s latest campaign is evidence of the simple, though impactful, elements that can make all the difference when it comes to content that can be consumed by people with blindness or low vision.

The campaign was created for the brand by indie PR and creative shop, Keep Left, launching off the back of Guide Dogs NSW’s refreshed brand strategy and platform.

Titled ‘For a Boundless World’, the work highlights that while the world is not currently designed for people with low vision or blindness, it could be.

The campaign’s first phase focuses on the experience of Guide Dogs clients, educating Australians on the realties of living with blindness and low vision in a format reminiscent to the ABC’s ‘You Can’t Ask That’ series. Poised in front of a drop sheet background, these clients one by one address common myths and questions about how they socialise, date, work, travel and parent.

Getting the accessibility piece right – both from a production and a content stand point – was a challenge, the agency’s executive creative officer, Blair Kimber, tells Mumbrella. But nothing that couldn’t be solved by engaging with those who have lived experience.

“There are things you see in the final content that come to life through the audio description and the subtitles that were inspired by our discussions with Guide Dogs clients. Those elements allow the story to be cohesive for all audiences.”

Behind the scenes, accessibility was a different challenge again, Kimber shares, touching on the importance of making sure that talent with low vision and blindness were able to negotiate the film set.

“We’re putting together some of those learnings for an accessibility on-set checklist so that they can potentially be used by the wider industry.”

And for Apte, encouraging content makers to implement accessibility principles is a a big part of what this campaign is trying to do.

But, he adds that while is keen for Guide Dogs to be the exemplar of accessibility, he feels it is the responsibility of the broader industry to do some heavy lifting when it comes to making change in this space.

“As media and communications professionals, we have an outsized influence on society, in our ability to communicate, not just to one, but to many. In the same ways that the profession has engaged with other topics of diversity and inclusion, it’s really important that we recognise there are some practical things we can all do to make communications more accessible.”

And while creating work that can be consumed by people who are blind or low vision may seem overwhelming, Kimber notes its important for the industry to “get comfortable with failure”. While agencies are too caught up with getting it wrong or offending someone, nothing will ever move forward.

“It has taken us some nuance and some insights to get there. But definitely, these are very practical things that anyone can do,” offers Apte. ‘I think we will get there,” he says, “But this isn’t a settled piece. There’s always new insights, there’s always people that are getting better. And that’s the journey we’re all on.”

Campaign Credits

Client: Guide Dogs NSW
CEO: Dale Cleaver
Chief Marketing Officer: Michael Apte
Brand Manager: Natalie Haidar
Communications Manager: Sarah van de Scheur, Stephen Acott
PR Manager: Declan Byrne
Principle Advisor – Access & Stakeholder Management: Jennifer Moon
Client Advisory: Sarah Hirst, Ben Moxey, Annette Ferguson, Zara Perry, Jamal Abdul, Ingrid Barnes

Agency/Production: Keep Left
Founder & CEO: Caroline Catterall
Managing Director: Katarina Farrell
Executive Creative Director: Blair Kimber
General Manager – Integration: Johanna Murray
Group Account Director: Gem Mejer
Copywriter: Ruby Gill
Senior Art Director: Thomas Rennie
Designers: Giorgia Fichera, Hannah Palmer
Strategy Director: Laura Agricola
Strategist: Harris Galloway
Digital Director: Larissa Thorne
Digital Strategist: Zach Edwards
Project Manager: Jeremiah Espanto
Agency Producer/Director: Ant Dinham
Photographer/Director of Photography: Andrew Diprose
Editor: Justin Carrig
Colourist: Samuel Galloway

Media: Ryvalmedia
Bianca Falloon: General Manager
Trent Light: Head of Strategy
Keegan Wicken: Business Manager
Susan Aung: Digital Executive

Brand strategy: Principals
Wayde Bull: Founder & Planning Director
Moensie Rossier: Strategy Director



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