WGBH to Develop Captioning for Handheld Media

WGBH to Develop Captioning for Handheld Media

Editor: It’s really important that the hearing loss community try to stay out in front of technology changes, so we’re not always trying to play “catch up” when it comes to ensuring that new technology is accessible. It looks like the folks at WGBH will be working to stay out in front on the issue of captioning handheld media.

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WGBH has received a $600,000 grant from the Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (http://www.ed.gov), to support its groundbreaking efforts to make handheld media accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, President Henry Becton Jr. announced today.

Titled “Captioning Solutions for Handheld Media and Mobile Devices” (award number H133G070122), the grant provides WGBH’s Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) with $600,000 over three years to research and develop technical solutions for delivering captioned content to iPods, cell phones, PDAs and other mobile devices.

“From TV programs to school science experiments to corporate training presentations, more and more video content is being delivered through handheld media,” said Larry Goldberg, Director of Media Access for WGBH. “Yet the 28 million Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing can’t fully benefit from this content because it lacks captions.”

Currently, Goldberg said, none of the existing technologies for producing and distributing content via mobile devices possesses the technical requirements needed to transmit captions. In addition, the few video-enabled handheld devices that have the technical capability to receive captioned content don’t offer any controls that would enable deaf or hard of hearing users to access those captions.

Through the grant, WGBH will research ways of embedding captioning solutions within handheld devices and develop prototypes that will serve as proof-of- concept models for the mobile technology industry and public policymakers. WGBH also will explore and develop strategies for captioning media that is streamed directly to mobile devices via wireless networks, multi-channel DTV distribution or downloaded to desktop computers and then transferred to mobile devices.

Technology partners that will provide development platforms for WGBH’s research include AOL(r), Hewlett-Packard Company, the Open Media Network and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Content partners MacNeil/Lehrer Productions (producer of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) and Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, will join WGBH in providing a range of video content to be viewed on project prototypes during user testing by people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

WGBH made history in the 1970s when it invented captioning for deaf and hard-of- hearing TV viewers. It later pioneered Descriptive Video Service(r) (DVS(r))-which provides blind and visually impaired viewers with an audio narration of a program’s visual elements-before developing MoPix(r), its patented system that provides captions and descriptive video for feature films. More than 300 theaters in the U.S. and Canada now offer the MoPix technology, enabling patrons with disabilities to enjoy first-run feature films at the same time as their sighted and/or hearing family and friends.

This year, WGBH marked the 35th anniversary of the first-ever captioned television broadcast: an episode of WGBH’s beloved cooking series, The French Chef with Julia Child.

“As content continues to migrate from TV to the Web and now to mobile devices,” Goldberg said, “it’s gratifying for WGBH to receive funding that will support our continuing efforts to make all media accessible to people with disabilities.”

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster, producing such celebrated national PBS series as Masterpiece Theatre, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience and more than a dozen other award-winning primetime, lifestyle and children’s series. WGBH is the leading producer of online content for pbs.org-one of the most-visited dot-org sites on the Internet-a major producer for public radio and a pioneer in developing educational multimedia and new technologies that make media accessible for people with disabilities. For its efforts, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Oscars, Emmys, Peabodys and duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards. Visit WGBH on the Web at www.wgbh.org.