2001 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2001 Table of Contents

The Educational (and Cutting) Edge of Media Access

Larry Goldberg, Director
CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM)
WGBH Educational Foundation
125 Western Ave.
Boston, MA 02134
e-mail: Larry_Goldberg@WGBH.org 
web: http://www.wgbh.org/NCAM


As new and emerging media technologies enter our homes, schools, workplaces and communities, research and development must take place to assure that these technologies can and will be accessible to people with disabilities and that the new media can be exploited to help the educational needs of children and adults with disabilities. The CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has embarked on four new projects which address this issue in four different ways:
"eDescription," "Rich Media Access," "Standards for Accessible Learning Technologies," and "Research on Edited Captions for Deaf Children."

eDescription: Extended, Enhanced, and Educational Descriptions

NCAM will adapt broadcast description methodologies for use with classroom media to improve blind students' access to and participation in curricula. Currently, descriptive narration is provided on a number of PBS broadcasts as well as movies (including drama, nature, science, children's programs, and documentaries.)

NCAM will analyze, amend and expand current practices to create an E-description methodology which will build on current research on cognition in blind children. Working with a team of highly qualified advisors, NCAM will explore the potential of E-description as a curriculum adaptation to provide access to content and meaning in software, video, illustration and other visual materials. The Project will also contribute to the advancement of theory, knowledge and practices related to the strategic use of E-description as an instructional tool.

E-description will include "extended descriptions," defined as the communication of key visual information which requires a longer time period than that allowed by pauses in the media. E-description will also include "enhanced descriptions," defined as additional information and cues specifically designed to address cognition issues experienced by blind children. Together, these techniques constitute an entirely new approach which will result in "educational descriptions."

NCAM will evaluate and refine the E-description methodology with students, teachers and parents using segments of a major health education curriculum. NCAM will also solicit input from students, teachers and parents about the potential role of E-description in classroom and homework practices, and its contribution to independence.

Project results will serve all blind children but will most notably address challenges faced by mainstreamed blind students and general education teachers. Project results will apply to video, graphics, animation, illustrations et al. presented and delivered in wide variety of media. Future delivery methods for E-description files are many and scalable—from an audio tape delivered via regular mail to Web-delivered audio direct from the publisher or from a server of a designated educational site or via digital television.

The project is being led by Dr. Richard Ely, an experienced teacher of blind and visually impaired children and researcher on applications of adaptive technology for the education of individuals with visual impairments. Visually impaired himself, Dr. Ely maintains a technology assessment and itinerant teacher practice in Western Massachusetts.

Access Solutions for Rich Media: Tools, Pathways, and Resources

NCAM will create and advocate for solutions which will enable deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and low vision Web users to benefit from Web sites which employ current and emerging forms of multimedia. This Project will develop solutions and resources for Web designers and distributors who want to offer accessible Web sites and for technology developers whose products need to enable the creation and display of captions and descriptions. Solutions will serve rich media technologies such as streaming and non-streaming video and audio, dynamic HTML, animation, maps, graphics, illustrations, and photographs. Resources developed by this project will impact the accessibility of Web sites and products in every conceivable environment— in entertainment, in classroom education, in customer service and retail applications, in corporate training, in distance learning applications; in businesses and schools, and in cultural and community organizations. Project goals are to: Technology partners representing the major companies and organizations in Web media will review specifications, evaluate software solutions and encourage use of Project resources. Consumers will contribute to identification of barriers and evaluation of proposed solutions.
Web partners from a wide range of sites will test and evaluate features and the user interface of the captioning and description tools and tutorials. Web partners will also provide content for the Showcase Website.

Standards For Accessible Learning Technologies

The Standards For Accessible Learning Technologies (SALT) Partnership is a four-year initiative which involves partners from every facet of the distributed learning industry. This project will develop and promote open-access specifications and support implementation models which enable people with disabilities to access distributed learning resources. Specifications will involve and serve the entire community of public and private companies, organizations and individuals developing learning resources. Project activities and results will have an impact on the accessibility of on-line resources in every conceivable learning environment: K-12, vocational and post-secondary education, the government and the military, and in and workplace training.

NCAM and the IMS Global Learning Consortium will co-lead the project. Committed industry partners include Blackboard, Inc., Educational Testing Service (ETS), Microsoft Corporation, Pearson Education, Sun Microsystems, PeopleSoft, Saba Software, and the United Kingdom's Open University. Advisors include the leadership of membership organizations in education and disability. Disabled users will contribute to identification of barriers and evaluation of proposed solutions.

The project has the following goals: Solutions will serve the on-line learning industry and the 72% of the nation's post-secondary institutions which enroll students with disabilities. Project findings will also benefit the nation's estimated 22 million deaf or hard-of-hearing people, 12 million blind or visually impaired people, and 8 million people with motor impairments.

Research on Edited Captions for Deaf Children

NCAM will collaborate with researchers at Ohio State University to investigate comprehension differences when deaf and hard-of-hearing children watch videos with edited captions versus near-verbatim captions.

The project will evaluate effects of edited captions— captions with a slower presentation rate and modified language— on comprehension. For many deaf children, reading is a frustrating experience, and reading captions is challenging. The goal of edited captions is to help children who are not fluent readers have greater success reading captions and understanding a program. If the research results support our hypothesis, this would argue for a second stream of captions on selected children's television programs, in addition to the original "near-verbatim" captions. Media with edited captions could be a new source of age-appropriate materials that have text which matches children's reading abilities. This project will contribute significantly to knowledge on reading captions and comprehension.

The research questions are: The study will use Arthur, an Emmy-award winning and extremely popular children's program on public television. By the end of 2000, under a separate agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, all 75 existing episodes of Arthur will have two sets of captions, near-verbatim and edited.

The project will use the existing Arthur programs, developing 16 videotapes for the study, half edited and half the original near-verbatim. The project will set up after-school Arthur Clubs at eight New England schools, involving a total of 38 children. Participating children will be between 7 and 11 years old and must read at a 2.0 reading level or higher.

During each Club session, children will watch an Arthur program with either edited or near-verbatim captions, and an examiner will assess each child on his or her comprehension of the story. There will be two types of assessments— one known as QAR, question answer relationships, and a Retell format— to reduce the possibility of the assessment influencing comprehension scores. Approximately three-quarters of the students will be part of a group design and the remaining students will be part of a single-subject design. Both the caption condition— edited and near-verbatim— and the assessment— QAR and retell— will be randomized. To gather qualitative information about children's attitudes towards captioned media, the project will set up a video lending library and ask students about their reasons for choosing particular programs (which will include near-verbatim and edited tapes).

The Ohio State University team will be led by Dr. Peter V. Paul, a widely recognized expert in literacy and deafness who is profoundly deaf himself. Dr. Paul will coordinate a team of academics at Ohio State with expertise in evaluation and literacy.

About NCAM

The CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) is a research and development facility dedicated to the issues of media technology for disabled people in their homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. NCAM's mission is: to expand access to present and future media for people with disabilities; to explore how existing access technologies may benefit other populations; to represent its constituents in industry, policy and legislative circles; and to provide access to educational and media technologies for special needs students.

NCAM is pioneering the use of accessible media in the classroom through projects which empower students, educate software and hardware developers, design new media access devices and procedures, and in general help assure that disabled students are able to reap the benefits of existing and emerging educational media.

NCAM is part of The Media Access Group at WGBH, which consists of The Caption Center, Descriptive Video Service® (DVS), and the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Together, these departments within the nation's most successful public broadcasting organization, have pioneered and delivered accessible media to disabled students, adults, and their families, teachers, and friends since 1972.

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2001 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.