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Blind Friendly Web Sites and Television

Web Sites to listen To

While streaming auditory media could make web sites accessible to the blind, they would require fairly powerful computers. (Although my 1982 Commodore 64 and 1985 128 can play offline wav files). Properly designed sites that use text to describe all relevant points can be read by computer text to audio devices. The CBC home site can be accessed by sighted and unsighted users. While graphics can add to a page's meaning, descriptive text tags can make navigation and understanding possible for those of us who cannot see.

This may require manual editing of automatically created html markup, since many automatic site creators ignore visual handicaps. This editing may in some cases lead to the decision to replace images with text that communicates as clearly and reduces page loading time for dial up connections.

Text only browsers such as Lynx, Links and W3M can run from "dumb terminals", which have no processing power of their own. A web site that is completely text supported will be usable by these connections. Third world countries can afford more "dumb terminals" than fully configured computers. A site that is text supported is also usable by text capable cell phones, either directly through the Agora delivery system or indirectly by forwarded e- mail of web pages.

Second Audio Programming

For the past two decades, the PBS service in the United States has produced some programming that contains a descriptive voice track. While we watch a scene of Morse, a narrator says "Inspector Morse rises from his sofa and drink in hand goes to his stereo." Dialogue is retained.

Called by PBS "Descriptive Video Services", it works with televisions and vcr's that have a second audio programme option. From my Nova Scotia home, I can use this service with my PBS cable signal. The CBC Newsworld service uses SAP for "Voiceprint", a magazine article and newspaper reading service. Fox uses this feature to send Spanish audio along with English on the same signal when showing "The Simpsons". By December 2001, the Canadian Global network used DVS for some programmes in selected cities.

The original dvd edition of "Terminator II" and "Basic Instinct" had a SAP track as do some current Disney titles and most recently, "Moulin Rouge" (R1).

The Canadian Radio and Television Commission requires all cable systems to carry television signals as received by them. This means they must provide SAP or DVS across Canada It took me several years to achieve this ruling from the CRTC. I doubt that it is being followed in all localities.

Teachers might find it a useful exercise to have students view a scene of a taped programme and compose a comentator's description. They could play the tape with their voice over description and then listen to the professional DVS. An analysis might be how and why the descriptions differed.

Blind Justice

Hearing Impaired

As my 58 year old male ears deteriorate, I increasingly use close captioning while watching television. The captions inadvertently often also give me additional information (the music that is being played, what is being said in a street scene across the street, the earlier version of the script that was not used, etc.). While my senses are close to "normal", I can appreciate how much a blind person could be helped by text supported web pages, and sap.

All of us would be helped if we checked our cable providers for SAP services and insisted on their provision. An e-mail to a web page creator might encourage text support on that page.

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