Posts Tagged ‘descriptive video’

21st Century Communications and video Accessibility Act

July 3, 2012

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore. On July 1, 2012 the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act finally took effect. This act requires the Networks and a few of the top cable channels to provide about 40 hours a quarter of descriptive video programming, roughly about 4 hours a week in the Top 25 television markets. This is something that is long over due, consider how long television has offered close captioning for the hearing impaired, so why have the blind been ignored for so long?

I have been counting down the days until the act went in to place, and it is finally here. I began researching how to receive the programming with the descriptive video. You basically have to set your television to receive the SAP signal, no that’s not just for Spanish programming. There is a setting to receive the secondary English audio programming which I assume is an audio feed that has the audio described programming. So why am I mad as hell now that July 1 has come and gone?

Because I am not receiving the secondary audio programming. My anger is directed at a few companies and organizations. You would think that this law which had to be voted on by Congress to take effect would be a big deal, but it’s not! In my research, I discovered that freakin Canada has been providing audio described programming for over ten years to there blind citizens! England and Australia have also been providing described video for their blind citizens for many years. So why does a country that prides itself on always being there for other people and thinking we help the world care less about its own people with disabilities? So yeah, I am angry at the United States for taking so long to get this act passed.

My anger isn’t solely directed at Congress, as I mentioned I haven’t begun to receive the audio feed. I am a Time Warner Cable subscriber, so I had the fun task of calling the cable company today to find out what I had to do to get the described video. And we all know how much fun it is to call the cable company. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the customer service rep I was speaking with had at least heard of descriptive video. She told me they mentioned it briefly to them, but that was it. Are you kidding me, what did the meeting go like this. Ok everyone Congress is forcing us to provide descriptive video for those blind people out there, so you may get some phone calls about it, but we’re not going to tell you how to instruct those blind people to actually receive the audio described programming or what television shows will be described. Fantastic. That’s right, after holding for awhile, I was told they knew nothing about it, and with the holiday they will have to call me back on Friday. I’m not holding my breath for a call back from the cable company. It gets even better, as minutes after hanging up with Time Warner I received an automatic call from them to rate the service I received. I started to do the survey, and there was no way for me to express my displeasure as there were just options to press and no comments to make.So this is how much juice Congress has? They can pass a law but getting it implemented is a whole different issue. Speaking of which I recall about ten years ago the Supreme Court ruled that the United States had to make money accessible to people with disabilities. How’s that coming along? I also recall either a Supreme Court ruling or another useless ruling by Congress that all future technologies meaning future designs of TV’s, microwaves, DVD Players, etc had to be accessible to the blind. What the hell ever happened to that? I’m pretty sure that in the last five years the equipment manufacturers have produced a new model or two. And guess what none of them are more accessible to the blind. Yet in England and Australia they now have talking set top boxes and in England they have TVs that read the menus to the blind. What the fuck Congress could you be any more useless. Just passing a law and not enforcing it doesn’t change a thing. So yeah I am angry at Congress and the cable companies, but it doesn’t end there.

I can’t tell you how many times a week I receive an email from one of the blind organizations asking me to donate money. A lot of these organizations like The Foundation Fighting Blindness, American Federation For the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, etc do a lot of good work. But they also drop the ball a lot. These organizations are supposed to be looking out for the blind more than anyone. You would think with a historic act like the 21st Communications and Video Accessibility Act going in to place there would be a lot of press releases and news put out there instructing blind people how to receive the content. But of course there is nothing. You know what comes up when google Audio Descriptive Video? Definitions of what it is, Wikipedia on the history of, and resources for companies selling their services to describe videos. Not a thing on how a blind person can receive the descriptive video or what programs are being described. So yeah, my anger is also directed towards the blind organizations, as they should be at the front of a media storm getting this information out there. I guess they are just to busy putting together the next email I will receive asking for more money. Thanks for looking out for me. That last sentence was sarcasm.

God Takes It Away, but Technology Gives It Back!

April 27, 2012

Now since I have been an adult, I have not been a real religious fellow. Maybe it is because for most of my adult life I have lived with a visual impairment and for the last few years pretty much total blindness. Of course being me, I have had to find someone or something to blame for my life situation. That blame has landed at the feet of the invisible man upstairs. If there is a heaven and hell, lets just say hopefully the good that I have done in my life will outweigh all the times I have taken God’s name in vain. To keep this a family oriented blog, lets just say I have called the man upstairs several four letter names. There has been a lot of anger directed at him. Don’t judge until you are in my position.

Maybe there is a better way to view this, but this is the way I view things. God has taken a lot of things away from me. He took my ability to play sports, my career in the movie business, my enjoyment of watching sports, my ability to watch and enjoy TV, my ability to read, my ability to read and see things on the computer, and my ability to watch and enjoy movies. That is just naming a few things off the top of my head.

Now I am not throwing my hat in to the ring here for the whole God versus science debate. That would be an endless blog. I am just touching on things that I personally view that God has taken away from me making me the way he did, and now the things that technology is given back to me. The whole spiritual versus science debate is something that goes way over my head, and I can see parts of both sides of that argument.

Last weekend, after listening to yet another amazing instructional podcast by David Woodbridge of Vision Australia, I was alerted to Samnet now being accessible to the mac. Samnet is an application built and maintained by blind people for blind people. I first became across Samnet about 8 months ago, but was disappointed at the time to learn that it was a windows based application. Samnet is an application that you can run on your computer and it has a screen reader functionality it also has several topics with links for blind people, some of the topics include News, Entertainment, Sports, Weather, Social Networking, Email, and many more. When I first heard about Samnet, it really peeked my interest, you could imagine my disappointment when I found out that at the time I could not access its content on the mac. Fast forward to a few months ago. Google who has really ignored the blind community as most google applications are quite inaccessible released googlevox, an extension that you could plug in to their web browser, google chrome. A few months ago, I played around a little with googlevox to my disappointment it wasn’t that easy to use on a mac. I went back to using my built in Voiceover on the mac, and didn’t give Googlevox a second thought.

Last week, after listening to David Woodbridge’s podcast where he walked me through using Googlevox with Samnet, my interest was peeked again. I went back to Googlevox, and was pleasantly surprised by the improvements Google had made in their latest update to GoogleVox. It took some time, but I took the tutorial and played around with GoogleVox learning a lot of the keyboard shortcuts. I then signed up for a free trial of Samnet. Samnet is pretty simple for use even for someone who is blind and not a computer whiz. You can easily navigate the entire site using the tab, shift, arrows, and enter keys. I of course have learned some quicker ways to navigate the site, as I am impatient and a much more advanced computer user.

My main interest in checking out Samnet was for one particular area, Descriptive Video Content. What is Descriptive Video Content DVC? DVC is very similar to close captioning for the hearing impaired, but for blind people. It is a track that is set to a movie or television show that describes all the action that is going on, making it possible for a blind person to follow along. I expected to go to Samnet’s DVC area and get what I usually get not a lot of movies to choose from, and a fairly old and outdated library. Well, quite the contrary. I was pleasantly surprised to see New Release section with the label of uploaded in the last 30 days. I then went to the comedy section and was amazed that there were over a thousand movies to choose from. The movies range from classics to the latest releases. WOW. I watched my first descriptive Video movie The Ides of March with George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling, and Paul Giamatti. It took some getting used to listening to a movie with DVC, but compared to the alternative of not watching movies at all, it is amazing.

I am now on to my third movie, the latest Mission Impossible movie. Another great thing about the site is you can bookmark any part of the movie, and come and pick up where you left off. Great for me, as I am always doing a million different things. So thank you David woodbridge, thank you Vision Australia, thank you Google, thank you mostly Samnet. Technology has now given me back something that God has taken away from me! my ability and enjoyment of watching movies!

Please make sure to follow the people I mentioned in this blog on twitter David woodbridge @dwoodbridge, @Googleaccess, Samnet @SeroTalk, @VisionAustralia, and of course Nash and me @blindgator, @NashtheGuideDog, and @LaughForSight