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Last month, I wrote here on abledbody.com about a new captioning application for the iPhone that lets deaf and hard-of-hearing moviegoers follow the dialogue of almost any movie in any movie theater in the nation. Subtitles, as this app is called, was developed by Dan Walker, who did not realize that it would greatly benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing moviegoers. Movies are hardly ever captioned; deaf and hard-of-hearing people usually frequent select movie theaters that show movies with open captions or use the Rear Window Caption System, usually at specific times of day. Because I am deaf, using the Subtitles app I was able to watch “Avatar” at my local movie theater in New York City, two blocks away from my home, for the first time — even though I have lived in this neighborhood for four years. Earlier this week, Dan Walker was notified by Apple that his app violated ... keep reading »
The deaf community’s frustration with Netflix may be going away, or at least subsiding for now. Netflix has enabled closed captioning for some TV episodes and movies that you can watch instantly on your PC or Mac, says Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer at Netflix. Although it’s a limited library of content with subtitles available — about 100 titles, including most episodes of “Lost” Seasons 1-4 — Netflix now has released the technology and “will be working to fill in the library over time.” Currently, the captions only work on computers, including PCs and iPads. Netflix says it is working on captions for its game console, Blu-ray, and DTV platforms, which will roll out in releases starting this fall, along with support for 5.1 audio. Netflix offers a flat rate movie-delivery service but as more content is moving online, Netflix has been under pressure to use technology that will caption streaming TV ... keep reading »
Ah, video and search. Frank Sinatra said it best: Try, try, try to separate them – it’s an illusion. Here’s proof of that: Speech Technology. This week, Google sealed the deal on video search capabilities for its YouTube portal, saying it would provide auto-captions for all of its uploaded videos using proprietary Google’s Speech Technology. Google’s initiative, piloted in November, began with a handful of partner channels including PBS, Stanford University and National Geographic. It has now expanded to all uploaded English-speaking videos, with more languages to be added later this year. With this news, Google establishes itself as a frontrunner in the Internet programming space. As a company built on search, search, and more search, Google is now able to capitalize on its investment in speech-to-text technology to index videos, target advertising and create an actual profit margin for YouTube. In fact, video search is likely why Google acquired YouTube in ... keep reading »
Now that the thrust of the holiday movie season is upon us, let’s talk about something not so cheerful: Going to a film and not being able to hear it. Thousands of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing miss out because they can’t follow dialogue on the big screen. Big chains like AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment, having been sued countless times for not having captioning systems, have agreed to settle lawsuits by installing some caption systems, in some cities. As a result, some U.S. movie theaters have this technology in place. The bigger nut to crack is finding a particular film, when you want it, where you want it. It’s almost fanciful, like trying to catch Santa in your chimney on Christmas Eve. Movie chains say they don’t want to disrupt their hearing audience, so they tend to run captions on just one or two new films — of ... keep reading »
YouTube has launched a handy new page that aggregates all the videos from more than 100 institutions of higher education around the US. YouTube.com/edu now serves up campus tours, free lectures, research and other college news all in one place. Search queries can be limited to the “.Edu” part of the site as well. This is a great idea to help prospective students make more informed decisions, as well as for people with disabilities — kids and parents — who may not be able to travel to all of these schools. Apple just enhanced its iTunes content with iTunes University, and made it available via voice to people with visual impairments. Putting video content online — captioned, of course — is a great way to reach out to all college-age kids, including those with disabilities. keep reading »
The City University of New York’s Hunter College, online course developer DigitalChalk and IBM have gotten together to make short work of accessible distance learning. Hunter, IBM Research and online course developer DigitalChalk will partner on a project that will add speech-to-text captioning capability for deaf or hard-of-hearing students. Hunter will be able to create a multi-media online “classroom” with a transcript synchronized with over 90 percent accuracy to an associated training video. The on-demand accessible learning project works by having the Hunter College professor create online course content, including video, and upload any standard-format video file to DigitalChalk, where it’s automatically transcoded into Flash video. At the same time, the audio portion of the video is transmitted to IBM, where it’s transcribed using advanced speech-to-text technology. DigitalChalk includes the transcribed text as captions in a Flash video along with any PowerPoint slides the professor chooses to include. The combined technologies provide ... keep reading »
A group of Washington state residents have filed a lawsuit to force movie theaters to make closed-captioned movies available more frequently to the deaf and hard-of-hearing, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The Washington State Communication Access Project, who filed the suit, says more accessible entertainment should be available under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Movie theater oweners disagree, saying that they only need to provide access to the theater, and not to the films. keep reading »

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