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Q&A with Wendy Youens

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In our latest Media Access Australia ‘experts in access’ Q&A, we talk to Wendy Youens, CEO of the New Zealand access company Able, which provides captioning and audio description services for television and other media.

How and when did captioning begin in New Zealand, and how is it funded?

Captioning began in NZ back in 1984 on a few programmes every week, funded by the proceeds of the 1981 Telethon. Captioning started to grow in 1991 when captions were launched for TV ONE’S 6pm news bulletin. Since then the captioning service has been funded by the good folk at NZ On Air, New Zealand’s government broadcast funding agency.


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Canadian committee releases live audio description guidelines

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A committee led by Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters has released a set of logistical, technical and artistic guidelines for the audio description of live events.

Audio description for television is still mostly confined to pre-recorded programs, with scripts carefully prepared so that the descriptions do not overlap dialogue or other important audio information on the soundtrack. The audio description of live events, which must be performed spontaneously as a program goes to air, presents much greater challenges.


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New device to provide access to graphical information

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Curtin University has developed a new device aimed at enabling people with vision impairments to read complex printed information such as graphics, graphs, bills and bank statements.

According to Curtin’s Senior Lecturer Dr Iain Murray and PhD student Azadeh Nazemi of Curtin’s Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering, the new device uses a number of technologies, such as pattern recognition and machine learning, to identify images, graphs, maths or text on a page, then convert that information to audio format with navigation markup.


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Ai-Media expansion to benefit education and business

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Access provider Ai-Media has expanded its operations to Melbourne as part of growing its national and global operations in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and London.

Ai-Media CEO Tony Abrahams said he was “delighted to be able to additionally service our broadcast, education, corporate and government clients from this dynamic city”.

The provision of captions via speech-to-text in the classroom, workplace, at conferences and in meetings has increased access to information and services for people with hearing impairment and other needs. This access affords people the opportunity to participate fully and make equitable contributions in their chosen fields or places of learning.


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NDIS service providers urged to consider ICT accessibility

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Service providers to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) have been advised to consider the accessibility of their information communications technology (ICT) to ensure that they can fully support people with disabilities.

Speaking ahead of his presentation at the Disability Employment Conference, held 6-7 August on the Gold Coast, Media Access Australia’s web accessibility expert and W3C member, Dr Scott Hollier, said service providers to the NDIS need to consider how people with disabilities could better access their websites, smartphone apps, documents and other information.


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Audio description takes to the sky

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Emirates airline has announced the introduction of audio description to its in-flight entertainment system, making it the first airline to provide both captioned and audio described content for passengers to enjoy.

Emirates has worked closed with Walt Disney Studios to supply closed captioned content since 2007. In the month of August alone, there will be over 50 movies with closed captions for the Deaf and hearing impaired. To continue Emirates’ commitment to exceptional customer service, audio description will be introduced on 16 Disney movies, allowing people with vision impairment to listen to the visual narration soundtrack.


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Accessible cinema to get a legislative boost in the USA

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Last week the United States Attorney General signed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which recommends amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act to provide captioning and audio description of movies.

The ruling will provide a consistent approach across the United States for cinemas to exhibit closed captioned and audio described movies. While the majority of movies released by American studios have captions and audio description, the number of cinemas making use of these features is varies widely across the country.

Some of the rulemaking inclusions are:


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Caption developments for cinema and the arts

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The last few years have seen major developments in cinema accessibility alongside the update to digital cinema. Theatre and musical theatre have also benefited from the digital revolution with a variety of new methods available to view captions or listen to audio description.

In an update on last year’s article on the Off-Screen Cinema Subtitling System we’ve learned that testing of this new technology has taken place in a UK cinema with the next stage being to finalise software for cinemas to use.


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OwnFone launches ‘world's first braille mobile phone’ in Australia

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OwnFone has launched a braille-based mobile phone for blind and vision impaired users in Australia—a world-first, according to the mobile technology company.

By combining a three dimensional (3D) printing system and customisable, blank mobile devices, OwnFone allows customers to design a mobile phone with up to three contact names and numbers, which are automatically converted into braille buttons on the front of the device.

The phone features a single button dialling system, with pre-programmed options to call emergency services and contacts of the customer’s choice, including family, friends or carers.

Digital media and technology: 

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