GBH’s accessibility teams are where the action is — at the Academy Awards and at the polls. 

Viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who are blind or have low vision were able to enjoy some of the Oscar-nominated films including FRONTLINE’s 20 Days in Mariupol, which won the award for Best Documentary Feature, thanks to GBH’s Media Access Group (MAG). MAG also provided closed captioning and audio description for The Holdovers, which won Best Supporting Actress; The Boy and the Heron, which won Best Animated Feature; and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, nominated for Best Animated Feature. 

This work is accomplished largely by the GBH office in Los Angeles. Staff there also work on television, streaming video, and GBH’s own broadcast productions. Their efforts build upon and enhance GBH’s deep commitment to accessibility, as leaders in inventing closed captioning, providing descriptive video services, and ensuring that tools are available across platforms. 

And just in time for the primaries, staff of the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), just released a first-of-its-kind set of on-demand training videos that provide information for election workers to make voting more accessible to the over 15.8 million eligible voters with disabilities. Commissioned by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the eight videos are each between five and seven minutes long, designed to fit into an election worker’s busy schedule. 

NCAM’s Claire Houston hosts the videos, delivering succinct, detailed information on a variety of topics, such as how to understand the various kinds of disability, assistive technologies, website accessibility, and physical considerations for polling places. 

“This is how people consume instructional information these days – on YouTube, where people are used to finding information,” said Bryan Gould, Director of NCAM. “We had a lot of back and forth with the EAC to hone these down to the essential message, not overwhelm anybody, and ensure viewers are learning something in each episode. 

“EAC and GBH wanted to create materials that would equip election officials with the ability to identify challenges to accessibility and give them the tools to correct them,” said Donna Danielewski, GBH’s executive director of accessibility. “We hope this work will help continue the progress that has been made in serving voters.” 

“While voting has become more accessible with vote by mail, early voting, and electronic ballots, there’s still a way to go,” said Houston. “Barriers to voting begin before Election Day. For example, voter registration opportunities are less likely to be presented to people with disabilities through the vehicle registries or state offices, and paper and online forms are often not accessible.” One in five voters with a disability either needed assistance or had some difficulty in voting in 2022, according to a recent study

“It’s a huge loss to democracy if people with disabilities are not able to effectively cast their vote,” said Houston. 

NCAM hopes the impact of the videos goes well beyond election workers. 

“People who work at the polls can take the skills they learn about accessibility into other realms of their lives,” said Houston. “Poll workers are working everywhere — they’re teachers, store owners, in lots of roles in our communities. Hopefully the education we offer expands to other areas of our world." 

Watch the instructional videos for election workers here and learn more about GBH’s work in accessibility here.