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Measuring caption quality: our white paper

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Media Access Australia today released a white paper entitled Caption quality: International approaches to standards and measurement. It focuses on issues surrounding the live captioning of TV programs, the difficulties in measuring caption quality effectively, and some of the solutions that have been proposed. 

The white paper, which is the first in a planned series, was written by our Project manager for television, Chris Mikul, and sponsored by Red Bee Media Australia.


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Captioning campaign launched in New Zealand

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The National Foundation for the Deaf has launched a campaign, Caption It!, calling for increased levels of captioning on New Zealand television.

The campaign, which coincides with Hearing Week (24-30 March), draws attention to the very low levels of captioning in New Zealand compared to the US and UK, where 100% of programming on all major free-to-air and subscription channels is captioned. The captioning rate on public broadcasters in New Zealand is, by contrast, only 19.7% measured over 24 hours.


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Top themes from CSUN 2014

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The Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, commonly known as CSUN, has kicked off. The event, held in San Diego, California is one of the one of the world’s largest conferences dedicated to accessibility technology and the discussion of emerging accessibility trends and ideas.

For those unable to attend this year’s conference Media Access Australia put together the following on four of the major themes of CSUN 2014: mobile devices, employment, education and innovation.


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ACMA given more discretion to investigate complaints

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The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) is to be given greater discretion about whether to investigate complaints under the Broadcasting Services Act, including complaints related to television captioning. 

The change is one of the Federal Government’s ‘Repeal Day’ package of reforms to cut red tape which were announced yesterday. A spokesperson for the ACMA said, “This amendment will allow the ACMA to take no action on complaints that are, for example, misconceived, trivial, stale or inappropriately divert the ACMA’s resources and the resources of broadcasters.”


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Deaf Australia appoints new CEO

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Deaf Australia has appointed Kyle Miers as its new chief executive officer, replacing Karen Lloyd AM, who retired in February.

Miers has been a board member of Deaf Australia for nine years, and was its president for five years. He is currently Manager, Community Relations for Deaf Children Australia, and is also the secretary of the World Federation of the Deaf, Oceania.

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ACMA releases community safeguards report

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released its report on the ‘Contemporary community safeguards inquiry’ it conducted last year, which explored matters that should be addressed in broadcasting industry codes of practice.

The report states that the aim of the inquiry was to ‘ensure that codes of practice are fit for purpose in a converging media environment’. Prior to the inquiry. the ACME had identified seven concepts including ‘access’ which are relevant to broadcasting codes of practice, and one of the questions asked in the issues paper was ‘Should the concept of “access” be relevantly included as a guiding core principle?’

In their submissions to the inquiry, Free TV, SBS and the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) all argued that there was no longer any need for captioning matters to be included in broadcasting codes, as these were now covered by comprehensive legislative obligations.

In its submission, Media Access Australia argued that captioning provisions in codes of practice are still significant in reinforcing the important role that captions play in people’s lives. They also cover four essential areas which are not covered by the caption obligations found in the Broadcasting Services Act. These are:

  • Ensure that closed captioning is clearly indicated in program guides.
  • Exercise due care in broadcasting closed captioning, and monitor closed captioning transmissions.
  • Provide adequate advice to relevant viewers if scheduled closed captioning cannot be transmitted.
  • When broadcasting emergency, disaster or safety announcements, provide essential information visually wherever practicable.

The ACMA’s report concluded that ‘This is an example of where code provisions may be helpful in complementing legislative obligations for as long as the information is of value, does not duplicate existing provisions and allows for technological and other developments.’

The ACMA also stated that ‘At the outset, the inquiry was expected to culminate in specific guidelines for future codes of practice reviews. However, the ACMA has now decided to defer further work on the inquiry and to publish this report, so that the evidence it captures can immediately inform the broader conversation about the future of broadcasting regulation in Australia, as well as the industry code reviews due to be undertaken.’

The issues paper, submissions to the inquiry and the consolidated report can all be downloaded from the Contemporary community safeguards page on the ACMA’s website.


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European Union legislates for web accessibility

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The European Parliament has passed a law to improve the accessibility of information on government websites in European Union member countries. This will give millions of people enhanced access to vital information and services.

he draft law — which was approved by 593 votes to 40, with 13 abstentions — requires all European Union (EU) member countries to ensure that all websites managed by public sector bodies are fully accessible to elderly people and those with a disability.

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Results of the WebAIM screen reader survey

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Accessibility service WebAIM has released the results of its international screen reader user survey. They reveal the experience of blind people using computers and the internet, and show what website and software makers can do to be more inclusive.

screen reader is a piece of software on a computer, smartphone or tablet which converts text to audio. It is the primary tool used by most people who are blind. The 2014 WebAIM survey, the fifth of its kind, received over 1400 responses.

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Free TV Australia requests an end to caption reporting requirements

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In a submission to the Department of Communications, Free TV Australia, the organisation which represents Australian free-to-air broadcasters, has requested that broadcasters no longer be required to report annually on compliance with caption quotas and caption quality standards.

In November 2013, the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, wrote to organisations within the communications sector asking for advice on where regulation could be streamlined or removed. The compliance reporting requirements that Free TV is objecting to were included in the Broadcasting Services Act as part of a package of amendments relating to captioning passed in June 2012.


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Mozilla's $25 accessible smartphone

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Soon there will be more choice in the accessible smartphone market, with not-for-profit technology organisation Mozilla launching its own mobile operating system and smartphone. With accessibility and affordability key considerations, it is hoped that these products will help bring down the cost of smartphones for people with disability.

Like all Mozilla products, the operating system Firefox OS is open source, meaning that members of the development community can contribute to its improvement. As we reported in July, this will allow for Firefox OS’s accessibility features to be introduced and enhanced more quickly than in closed source systems such as Apple iOS.

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