Keynote: Meryl Alper

Critical Media Access Studies: Examining the Benefits and Limits of Accessibility in Mediated Spaces

The benefits of “accessible” media and technology for people with disabilities are rarely questioned, nor considered within broader critical/cultural frameworks. In this talk, based on an article recently published in the International Journal of Communication, I make 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.

My 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 autistic children and their families, as well as participant observation in 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.


Meryl Alper is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northeastern University, where she studies the social and cultural implications of communication technologies, with a focus on disability and digital media, children and families’ technology use, and mobile communication. She studied communication sciences and history at Northwestern University, and at the University of southern California, where she earned her Ph.D. in communication. Her works include among others, Digital Youth with Disabilities (MIT Press, 2014) and Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality (MIT Press, 2017), which was awarded a 2018 PROSE Award Honorable Mention from the Association of American Publishers and the 2018 Outstanding Publication in the Sociology of Disability Award from the American Sociological Association. Her work is situated at the intersection of communication studies, science and technology studies, and disability studies and she also draws on her professional experience in educational children’s media as a researcher, strategist, and consultant with Sesame Workshop, PBS KIDS, Nickelodeon, and Disney.


German Sign Language Interpretation will be provided during the public talks.

Please let us know about any further accessibility requirements. Email to psander [at]


Please contact Maximilian Mohr to receive the link for the Zoom video conference. Email: shkmedas [at]

More Information

Read more about the program

Back to top