2004 Conference Proceedings

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Mary Watkins
Larry Goldberg
Media Access Group at WGBH
125 Western Avenue
Boston, MA 02134
Phone: 617 300-3700
Fax: 617 300-1035
Email: mary_watkins@wgbh.org 
Email: larry_goldberg@wgbh.org 

An Access Wish List:

To enjoy the latest, most-talked-about movie, complete with closed captions or descriptive narration, in a theater on opening day;

To shop at Best Buy or on amazon.com for the DVD version of your favorite film of all time, complete with director's commentary, closed captions, a descriptive narration track option and TALKING MENUS you control;

To cruise the net, making pitstops at sights with fully captioned and described media clips or breaking news.

If these scenarios seem like a distant dream, it's time to wake up and get working. The Media Access Group at Boston public broadcaster WGBH has created solutions to barriers that have historically kept people with disabilities outside the mainstream of mass media, and the tools are now being used by industry to make their offerings accessible to a largely untapped market.

Among the cool tools that will be demonstrated:

Motion Picture Access, or MoPix Technologies - Rear Window Captioning and DVS Theatrical. The patented Rear Window System is an innovative technology that makes it possible for exhibitors to provide closed captions for those who need or desire them without displaying them to the entire audience, and without the need for special prints or separate screenings.

The RWC system displays reversed captions on a light-emitting diode (LED) text display which is mounted in the rear of a theater. Patrons use transparent acrylic panels attached to their seats to reflect the captions so that they appear superimposed on or beneath the movie screen. The reflective panels are portable and adjustable, enabling the caption user to sit anywhere in the theater.

DVS Theatrical makes it possible for exhibitors to provide narrated descriptions-- information about key visual elements such as actions, settings, facial expressions, costumes, and scene changes-during pauses in a film's dialogue. The descriptive narration is fed via infrared or FM transmitter to a small portable receiver, enabling blind and visually impaired moviegoers to hear the descriptions on headsets from any seat in the theater.

MoPix systems are installed in over one hundred first-run and specialty theaters (such as Disney attractions and national park service visitor centers) in the U.S. and Canada. Over 100 films have been captioned and described, a list which grows longer each year. Summer 2004 blockbusters such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Spider Man 2 will be made accessible day and date of their release.

Talking Menus for DVDs and Set-top Boxes: DVDs are the fast selling consumer electronics products in history. The wealth of "real estate" on a DVD enables inclusion of a host of features movie lovers are hungry for… scenes cut from the original theatrical release, commentary by writers, directors and actors, original film trailers and more. But if you are blind, how do you navigate the menus… what are your keys to the kingdom of features? WGBH has designed talking menus for several commercially available DVDs, and then went a step further to write guidelines, available free of charge, for how DVD authoring facilities can create talking menus themselves.

Media Access Generator/MAGpie - There are numerous agencies which provide captioning and description services to broadcasters, cable networks, multimedia producers and the like. However, if you surf the Web, you know that the burgeoning presence of multimedia on sites is far outpacing the amount of captioning (let alone description) that accompanies those clips. How then to make supply catch up with demand? What about freeware that enables multimedia developers to caption and describe their own digitized media? Enter WGBH, which created the Media Access Generator/MAGpie, a do-it-yourself captioning and description tool that is now being used by folks around the world to make Web-based media more accessible.

Join senior staff of WGBH's internationally recognized Media Access team as they demonstrate these and other cutting-edge systems for caption and description creation and delivery, and learn why getting these tools into your local theater, your living rooms and onto the Web sites you discover is the "last access mile" that only your involvement as an advocate can bridge.

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