Friday, June 29, 2012

Newly Mandated Video Description Could Bring 30 Million More Viewers to Network Programming

Diane Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of Descriptive Video Works, one of the leading providers fro video description services in North America, is proclaiming July 1, 2012 as Independence Day for the nearly 30 million Americans with vision disabilities. July 1, 2012 is the deadline set by the FCC for the top broadcast and cable networks to begin providing a minimum of four hours per week of video described programming – a secondary audio track narration describing the visual elements in each scene that add to a program’s plot or storyline and is inserted between natural pauses in dialogue – creating a more robust television experience for audience with vision disability. Video description could also increase ratings for those networks offering the service.

Watch Descriptive Video demo below:

“Thanks to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), citizens who are blind and low vision of the U.S. are finally gaining the access they deserve to the information, communication and entertainment that most of us take for granted,” said Johnson in issuing the proclamation.  “All of us that serve and advocate for people who are blind and low vision are thankful for the access provided by this initiative, and are encouraged by the number of networks and content producers who are stepping up to provide video description beyond the mandated hours.  Video description offers people who are blind and low vision an opportunity to learn more about the visual world and provides them with a better understanding and more dynamic television experience, helps them to enjoy a greater social connection through shared entertainment and fosters a stronger sense of independence.”

Shirley Manning, director of Junior Blind of America’s adult program, the Davidson Program for Independence, added, “As an organization that strives to help those who are blind or low vision achieve independence, everyone at Junior Blind of America could not be more pleased that our students will have greater access to televised content through video described programming.  We hope this will inspire other platforms, like museums, theaters and other cultural venues to provide similar video description services.”

In 1996, the U.S. Congress required video programming distributors (cable operators, broadcasters, satellite distributors and other multi-channel video programming distributors) to close caption their television programs.  This was a great service for some 20 million people who are hard of hearing or deaf in this country, but since closed captioning is text display showing a transcription of the dialogue from a program, it doesn’t benefit people who are blind or low vision

In 2000, the FCC adopted rules requiring certain broadcasters and Multiple Video Programming Distributors (Comcast, AT&T, etc.) to carry a limited amount of programming with video description — an audio track added to the program which provides a rich description of the scene and action taking place in conjunction with the dialogue.  But five months later, after an intense lobbying effort, the U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the FCC ruling on the grounds that the Commission lacked sufficient authority.

On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) into law.  The CVAA calls for the top national networks’ (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and affiliates in the top 25 markets and the five top-rated cable networks — Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, TBS, TNT, The Disney Channel and USA – and the cable and satellite systems with at least 50,000 subscribers that carry them have to provide a minimum of 50 hours per quarter, or roughly 4 hours per week, of video described programming in prime time and/or children’s programming.  The FCC set the deadline for compliance for July 1, 2012 and will expand the number of hours of video described programming and increase the coverage areas in an effort to ensure 100% accessibility for people who are blind or low vision by 2020.

At that time, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyborn said, “In providing video description, America’s blind community will not only be able to enjoy the entertainment that video content providers offer, but they will also be part of the conversation around it.  I want to stress this, as I can imagine how left out a visually-impaired child feels when his or her classmates are discussing what happened on a popular show the night before, and to not be a part of that conversation or be able to follow along.   The same is true for blind adults, for whom the proverbial water cooler chats about TV shows hold little meaning or enjoyment.   This item will assist those individuals in getting even closer to the mainstream when it comes to popular culture, and we are a better and more complete nation for it.”

eadline for video description, television networks, program producers, news organizations and online video platforms now have nearly 30 million very compelling reasons for compliance.
With the FCC’s mandated July 1, 2012 d

Source: Descriptive Video Works

Universal Design Strikes a Balance Between Safety and Style

Living in a two-story house became a challenge for Susan and Paul Toback and their two sons, one of whom is physically and cognitively disabled. Their newer one-level house in Bannockburn makes life much easier.
“It wasn’t just the stairs, which didn’t work for my son or for my back problems,” Susan Toback said. “The new house means my son is safer and more independent.”

Rosemarie Rossetti shows off her new kitchen, which includes three staggered levels of countertops, a lower microwave and oven, and a roll-up stovetop. Her new home is called the Universal Design Living Laboratory. (Photo credit: Courtney Hergesheimer, Columbus Dispatch)
Rosemarie Rossetti shows off her new kitchen, which includes three staggered levels of countertops, a lower microwave and oven, and a roll-up stovetop. Her new home is called the Universal Design Living Laboratory. (Photo credit: Courtney Hergesheimer, Columbus Dispatch)
Built in 2009 by Lake Bluff-based Orren Pickell Builders & Designers, the Tobacks’ home incorporates basic principles of universal design, including simplicity and flexibility.

By definition, the concept involves making a product or environment “usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design,” according to the Center for Universal Design in Raleigh, N.C.

Universal design at the Tobacks’ house begins with stepless entries into the house and garage. The home also has an elevator to the finished basement, a basement bedroom suite for a future caregiver and grab bars in the hallways.

The Tobacks insisted that the house not look institutional. The result is a home that blends function and style. The open floor plan, with 4-foot-wide hallways for easy mobility, is attractive and suitable for all ages and abilities. An accessible bathroom features a walk-in tub and raised toilet and sink. The layout of the kitchen keeps drawers within easy reach, while the center island is at a convenient height for seating.

“Universal design is all about making the house comfortable and safe for everyone in the family,” said David Roberts, president of Roberts Architects & Construction Group Inc. in Evanston. “It combines home design with (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards. You have the wider doorways, for example, not just for a wheelchair turning radius but for the guy who breaks his leg in a skiing accident.”

Approaching universal design with a client can raise eyebrows, Roberts said. “I can’t say, ‘Boy, you’re getting old, I think you need grab bars,’ ” he said. “But I do ask their needs, and most families have them. You may not have an older or disabled person in the family, but you have a toddler or a visiting grandparent.”

Roberts talked about a client who wanted the freedom to live in her home even if she became sick or injured.
“After her husband died, she wanted to stay in her home with her dog, though friends urged her to go to a retirement home,” he said. “She could still get upstairs but asked us to build a first-floor bedroom-bathroom, with easy access to the backyard. Since then, she broke her hip but was able to stay.”

Incorporating universal design elements can be as simple as installing illuminated light switches or lever handles instead of door knobs.

r’s reaction is, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’” said Art Wehnert of Country Remodelers in Campton Hills, Ill.
“Usually, the homeowner

A first-floor master suite is the typical starting point for making a house more user-friendly. “In new construction, it just doesn’t make sense to not have (a bedroom) on the first floor,” Wehnert said. “For a remodel, we try to save the homeowner money by converting a large unused room like a den. But more often, we need to add a bathroom to it.”

Cheryl Daugvila of Cheryl D. & Co., a kitchen and bathroom design firm in La Grange, said it’s ideal to build a room that can be a den or guest room now, with a Murphy bed and built-in cabinets. Later, the space can become a bedroom with a bed and built-in drawers.

In addition to baby boomers needing first-floor bedroom suites for themselves, more homeowners prepare them for elderly parents, Daugvila said.

“More often, we have more than one generation in the house, so someone in the family needs that room,” she said.

Bathrooms that can accommodate a wide variety of users are safer for everyone, said Chicago-based interior designer Leslie Markman-Stern.

“Forget the polished marble floor of the ’90s; everyone slipped on that,” she said.
For safety, her bathroom designs have textured flooring or smaller tiles because it is the grout, she said, that reduces slipping. She also suggests lights in showers and tubs, towel bars anchored in wall studs, hand-held shower heads and night lights disguised as wall lights.

First-floor master suites are a selling point no matter buyers’ demographics, Markman-Stern said.
“They work for nannies, live-in grandparents and parents who don’t necessarily need to be on the same floor as their babies because of the new baby monitors,” she said.

Modifying the kitchen to make it safe and comfortable can mean less bending, reaching and lifting.
“Even without a disability, it helps to have everything at counter height, at that sweet space where you don’t have to climb a stool or bend over,” Roberts said.

Wehnert added, “All the little things should be thought out, like task lighting where you prepare food and dog bowls in pull-out drawers so you don’t trip over them.”

Designers can help you find products not seen in showrooms, like faucets with touch controls, upper cabinets that pull down, shelves that pull out and appliances with easy-to-see controls.
eakfast counter, Markman-Stern said. “Then you can use chairs instead of stools that tip over,” she said.

The market for aging-in-place remodeling continues to grow as more homeowners choose to remain in their homes as they age. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry and the National Association of Home Builders offer programs and courses that promote standards of universal design in residential projects.

According to a June study by the American Association of Architects, the percentage of clients who asked their architects for “flexibility in accessibility” rose to 64 percent in 2012 from 58 percent last year.

D.R. Horton Inc. is one of the production builders that has jumped on the universal-design bandwagon.
At its active-adult developments in Aurora, Naperville and Pingree Grove, D.R. Horton offers upgrades like taller vanities and toilets, walk-in showers with seats and wider doorways. Company Vice President Chris Naatz said a key feature is an extra garage bay for storage instead of a basement to avoid stairs.

Despite gains in universal design, the concept is confusing to many homeowners.

“Slowly, we’re getting there,” Wehnert said. “People get it when they see it in another home or on TV. It’s all about changing expectations. We’ll get to the point where this is the norm.”

A showcase for accessibility

The Universal Design Living Laboratory, a state-of-the-art home in Columbus, Ohio, serves as a learning center and resource for builders, remodelers, designers, architects and homeowners. The 3,500-square-foot ranch-style home incorporates universal design principles to demonstrate how a more comfortable and accessible living environment enhances quality of life.

The home was created by project founder Rosemarie Rossetti and her husband, Mark Leder, after Rossetti suffered a spinal cord injury 14 years ago that left her paralyzed from the waist down. After returning home from the hospital in a wheelchair, Rossetti realized just how unaccommodating her two-story home was for this new reality, which drove her and her husband to create the Universal Design Living Laboratory.
For more information, visit