Critical Media Access Studies: Deconstructing Power, Visibility, and Marginality in Mediated Space

Meryl Alper


The benefits of “accessible” media and technology for people with disabilities are rarely questioned, nor considered within broader critical/cultural frameworks. This article makes a contribution to the field of communication by proposing critical media access studies to further define a growing area of inquiry into contested notions of mediated access, drawing on work from disability media studies and critical access studies in architectural design. The proposal for critical media access studies is furthered through a case study of physical spaces designed for media engagement for young people, from museum exhibits to movie theaters, that provide “autism-friendly” programming. Qualitative analysis of interviews and observations with 27 autistic children and their families, as well as participant observation in 7 such sites, reveals ideological assumptions, frictions, and contradictions underpinning cultural accessibility. Critical media access studies can offer communication scholars valuable theoretical and conceptual tools for deconstructing power, visibility, and marginality in mediated space.


accessibility, autism, disability, children, critical media access studies, space

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