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UK’s First Inbuilt Text-To-Speech TVs Hit The Shelves

Electronics manufacturer Panasonic has built text-to-speech functionality into 30 of its television models, designed specifically to help blind and visually impaired users, making them the first such TVs to become available on the UK general market.

After switching on the function during installation, text-to-speech will be present over a wide range of tasks in the televisions, including speaking the channel number and name of a programme when switching channels; the time that a programme begins and ends; and whether other accessibility features such as audio description are available for a programme.

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Canadian Broadcasting Regulator Backs Access Fund

A coalition of Canadian disability organisations is claiming a historic victory this month after the country’s broadcasting regulator backed their call for an independent trust fund working to ensure 100% accessibility of all digital broadcasting platforms by 2020. Its work programme will be designed to focus on “innovation that provides platform-neutral solutions to ensure accessibility of all broadcasting content.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has included establishment of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund among conditions attached to its approval of the takeover of Canada’s largest TV network, CTV, by BCE ( http://www.bce.ca/en/ ), owner of communications company Bell.

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Canadian Coalition Pushes For Broadcasting Access Revolution

A coalition of Canadian disability organisations is set to hear if it has been successful in obtaining funding to create one of the world’s leading bodies promoting access to broadcasting services.

The Access 2020 Coalition ( http://www.mediac.ca/proj-Access2020.asp ), led by the non-profit body Media Access Canada, has asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to support the proposal as part of the conditions the commission is set to attach to its approval of a TV network takeover.
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Automatic Captions Added To YouTube Videos

Google, the owner of video exchange website YouTube, has started providing automatic captions for some English language videos on the website, increasing accessibility for deaf users.

The ‘auto-caps’ system is made possible by Google’s own automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology, working alongside the current YouTube captioning system.
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First Internet Web Radio Launched For Blind Users

A new internet radio set has been developed for blind and visually impaired listeners, allowing people to listen online to audio books, podcasts, talking newspapers and audio catalogues, as well as internet radio stations from around the world.

Manufactured by the charity British Wireless for the Blind Fund ( http://www.blind.org.uk ), the ‘Sonata’ radio – claimed to be the first of its kind – was launched earlier this month, and allows users to listen to any streamable, unlicensed internet audio feed.
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BBC Opens Up iPlayer To Audio Description

The BBC’s hugely popular iPlayer software will now carry approximately 25 hours per week of the broadcaster’s audio described TV programmes, giving visually impaired users access to a range of well-known shows including ‘Dr Who’, ‘Little Britain’ and some children’s programmes.

Audio descriptions assist vision-impaired people by using gaps between dialogue to describe what is happening in a programme. Until now none of the BBC’s audio described output has been available on the iPlayer but there are now plans to make all such programmes available on the system over the next few months, storing them in a new category on the iPlayer site (
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/categories/audiodescribed ).
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Opinion – Regulating Accessibility: Time for a New Beginning

There is an elegant correspondence between the amount of information in circulation and its accessibility which can be expressed in two formulae.

First, that the greater the quantity of information, the lower its cost of production; and second, that the lower the cost of production, the greater is the additional percentage cost of making it accessible.

Take television. When spectrum was limited, the medium was analogue and the labour was unionised, the cost of producing television was high; so was the cost of producing accessibility services such as captioning, audio description and signing; but the percentage cost of these special services was relatively low.
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Digital TV Switchover Help Scheme Package ‘Misunderstood’

A lack of understanding of the digital TV switchover help scheme package for the elderly and disabled has been found in the official report into the first live UK digital switchover in Whitehaven in Cumbria.

The Whitehaven report (http://fastlink.headstar.com/copeland1) is published by Digital UK, the broadcaster-funded body charged with overseeing the switchover from analogue to digital TV signals across the UK between now and 2012.

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