FCC Announces Effective Date for Captioning Responsibilities Report and Order

Video Programmer and VPD Caption Responsibilities Take Effect September 22, 2016,  Certifications, New Caption Complaint Process to be Announced at Later Date

FCC_CC_Responsibilities
Earlier year, the FCC released a Report and Order clarifying television closed captioning responsibilities in regard to compliance with the FCC Caption Quality Best Practices that went into effect March 16, 2015.

We briefly reported on the order in February at its initial release.

The Report and Order officially was published in the Federal Register on August 23, 2016, so the amendments regarding responsibilities officially take effect 30 days from publication, September 22, 2016. This clarifies that:

  • It is the responsibility of the video programmer to ensure the ordering and presence of quality closed captioning on programming, while it is the distributor (broadcaster, cable, or satellite company) to make sure the captions pass through, and pass through correctly regarding any technical aspects.

The rest of the order regarding caption compliance certification and complaint procedures will not go into effect until they are reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget and include specifically:

  • The video programmer, or the network, must certify compliance with the Quality Best Practices directly to the FCC annually. Or, if the video programmer is exempt from having to caption the programming, they must identify the reason (s).
  • “Burden shifting” of initial investigation of caption complaints to the VPD. Those with a caption complaint may file their issue with the VPD or directly with the FCC. If the VPD finds the issue to be on their end, they must notify the FCC and specify how they plan to correct the issue. If the VPD discovers it is not an issuse they’re responsible for after a thorough technical analysis, the video programmer must then conduct an investigation into the program in which the issue occurred and has 30 days to give a written response to the FCC. Complaints going to a VPD or the FCC should include the following:
    • Channel Number
    • Network
    • If going directly to the FCC, name of their VPD (cable/satellite company)
    • Program Title
    • Specifics of the Captioning Issue
  • A “Compliance Ladder” if a “trend,” or “pattern” of non-compliance of caption quality by a certain VPD is noticed,  that VPD will be notified by the FCC and have 30 days to file a written response on corrective action.

We will be following this closely, and will update when the effective date is announced of the latter parts of the amendment.

As always, VITAC, as the caption vendor, adheres to the best practices set forth in section 79.1(k)(2),(3) and (4) of the captioning rules, provided the programmer has adopted and follows the best practices set forth in 79.1(k)(1).

Contact us with any questions, or visit our Regulations pages.

By Brittany Bender

Gamers with Disabilities Get Twitch Spotlight

Twitch Showcases Gamers with Disabilties, Beta Tests Live Closed Captioning

According to a BigFishGames.com study, over 155 million Americans play video games three or more hours a week. This includes console gaming, and ever-growing mobile and mobile-app gaming.

According to the most recent census data, nearly 1 in 5 Americans are living with a disability. This week, Twitch, a video streaming platform known for video gaming, is highlighting gamers with disabilities to showcase how they adapt to play video games and stream themselves playing live.

The event is being brought to Twitch by advocacy group, AbleGamers, whose mission is to “…improve the overall quality of life for those with disabilities through the power of video games.”

Twitch is also making strides in accessibility by beta testing their live closed captioning feature. AbleGamers also assisted in testing this while they streamed themselves playing Rocket League.

Twitch_Able Gamers Closed Caption Beta
Screenshot from AbleGamers August 18th stream of Rocket League Beta Testing Twitch Live Closed Captions

Some Twitch streams draw in hundreds and thousands of viewers at a time, and with over 50 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans, closed captions on Twitch would enable them to enjoy watching or broadcasting gaming even more than they already do. A petition on Change.org was created last year to urge Twitch to release a live closed captioning option for E3, the gaming industry’s annual trade show that highlights the best and newest games for the upcoming year. Many live Twitch streams are featured during E3, and during many other gaming trade shows.

You can check out the rest of the week’s Twitch AbleGamer schedule and learn about how gamers with different disabilities integrate their gaming systems, play and excel popular video game titles.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be following developments of Twitch’s closed captioning feature closely, and hope that it is released in full soon.

By Brittany Bender

VITAC’s Realtime Captioners and Coordinators: Golden

As the Olympics Wind Down, We Thank our Realtime Department

Our last post focused on VITAC’s preparation for captioning the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, nearly doubling our daily volume across at least seven different NBC Universal-owned networks, five live Multi-Distribution System feeds, and multiple web channels. The games come to an end this Sunday, and wrap up with the Closing Ceremony. This week, we just want to take some time to show our appreciation for our Realtime staff for helping make these Olympic games accessible for over 50 million Americans who rely on closed captions.

Rio_opening_ceremonies

Opening Up

It all began Friday night, August 5th with our captioning coverage of the Opening Ceremony and the Parade of Nations. The Opening Ceremony was a tribute to the creation and discovery of the Olympics host country, Brazil and featured native performers, stunning projections, and acrobatic choreography from the minds of those at Cirque du Soleil. The second part of the ceremony gave a unique view and focus to the environment and climate change.

VITAC was fully prepared and captioned the show beautifully! All of the song lyrics and some of the show’s dialog was in Brazil’s national language, Portuguese, which we cannot translate live into English captions, so music notes and [ SPEAKING IN PORTUGUESE ] were common throughout the program.  NBC’s commentary was of course in English, but there were a few Portuguese words that they mentioned, including “caipirinha,” Brazil’s national cocktail, flawlessly captioned and spelled correctly!

A Little Help from Our Friends

With all of these Portuguese words being used in the English commentary throughout the Olympic games, one of our captioner’s relatives assisted in an out-of-the-box way.

VITAC Realtime captioner Jessica Bewsee’s daughter, Melody Chapin, is a Fullbright scholar, fluent in Portuguese and offered to record herself saying some of the names of venues, athletes, and commonly-used Portuguese words.

Our realtime captioners “write” what they hear phonetically on their steno pads. There are words that we know how to pronounce in English by the way they are spelled, but are completely different in Portuguese.

For example, one of the four main zones that the Olympics will take place in is pronounced BA-HA. In actuality, it is spelled, Barra. If a captioner was going off of a roster for preparation, Barra looks like it would be pronounced BEAR-UH or BAR-UH, and they could likely miss the connection during broadcast. Conversely, if a commentator makes reference to Barra during the Olympics, there’s a chance that a captioner could have written it as Baja if they hadn’t prepared! Melody pronounces it BA-HA in the video, and this text to audio link fills in the final gaps for our captioners.

“This is the main challenge of live captioning… Receiving a roster for a game or a list of venues can be almost worthless because what we see is nothing like it is pronounced,” affirms VITAC Realtime Captioner Suzanne Hagen.

Bling Count

In addition to ensuring our captioners are ready, prepped, testing connections, and monitoring caption feeds, our Realtime production coordinators go even a little further past the finish line and assist with preparation material. Every hour or so, they are responsible for updating the “Medal sheet”.  After events have concluded and medals have been awarded, the coordinators record the name of each athlete and whether they won gold, silver, or bronze. They then send the updated sheets to the Olympic captioners, so they are prepared if the NBC commentators mention Ukranian Track and Field star Bohdan Bondarenko, in case he medals in the men’s high jump this evening.

Wrapping Up

Our coordinators and captioners are just as busy preparing for the closing ceremony as they were preparing for the opening ceremony, all while performing their regularly scheduled duties, and their Olympic work.

A heartfelt thank you to all who have made this event a huge success so far. We appreciate your hard work, dedication, and overtime hours!

While the closing ceremony will air at 7:00 PM Sunday night, stay tuned to NBC and its affiliates for the rest of every “golden” moment this week. Check out NBC’s Olympics site for the full television schedule, and be sure to take a page out of comedian Leslie Jones’s book and turn the captions on!

By Brittany Bender

VITAC Prepares to Caption the 2016 Olympic Games

Rio Summer Olympics Open This Friday–VITAC is Ready.

Olympic Mascots in the Stadium

Days before the opening ceremonies, hundreds of thousands of individuals work tirelessly to ensure that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is fully equipped and prepared for the start of the of the Summer Olympic Games.  They must make certain that the city is ready for the influx of record number visitors, and provide a safe, secure infrastructure for international athletes and spectators alike.

Back here in the States at VITAC Headquarters in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, nearly every department is heavily involved in preparation for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.  Starting this Friday, August, 5th, we will begin a two-week surge in captioning, nearly doubling our daily volume as we caption the Olympics  across at least seven different NBC Universal-owned networks,  five live Multi-Distribution System feeds and multiple web channels.

Manager of Realtime Production Coordinators, Mark Paluso says his team has been working nonstop to ensure equipment and captioners are ready for anything that might happen.

“Together with our engineering department, we’re testing primary, backup, and redundancy scenarios,” he said.   “This includes intensive testing of Headquarters and Realtime Captioners’ IP connections, phone lines and audio lines.”  One event may require a captioner to be connected to up as many as eight encoders, and our engineering and coordination teams must ensure those connections are fluid and working.

Production coordinators are also responsible for working with NBC to create preparation material that captioners will use to improve accuracy while writing on fly, including:

  • Song lyrics and scripts for the opening and closing ceremonies
  • Lists upon lists of athletes – not just those participating, but those who won or lost in the past: i.e., anything that may be referenced on air.
  • Medal Counts – several times day the production coordinators will update our “medal count spreadsheet,” which details country, athlete, and team awards. The medal counts are blasted to Olympic captioners several times a day.Aerial view of the Rio Olympic Park

Once the games begin, the production coordinators work with our scheduling team to ensure captioners are set up for scheduled events and tested with NBC in advance of air.

Our systems and engineering team is creating a caption monitoring station where all of the Olympic video feeds’ captions will be monitored to ensure captions are on air even when the captioner cannot see the feed.  We’ve also revised our technical discrepancy reporting procedures so that any technical issues are immediately directed to our technical support team for resolution.

And let’s not forget the realtime captioners, who will be on air non-stop, doing their best to ensure that those viewers who rely upon captioning see the most accurate captions possible.   “Captioners are using the NBC Olympics website and volumes of prep material provided by NBC to update their dictionaries,” said Realtime Captioner Trainer Karla Ray.  She points out that though captioners may have a schedule indicating that one sport will air in a given time slot, they must be prepared to caption all sports, as one never knows what may air.

Captioners not on the air for the Olympics will be working overtime to cover our regularly scheduled programming.

The entire Olympics preparation effort is being led by Chief Business Development Officer, Doug Karlovits and Chief Operations Officer, Chuck Karlovits.   Veterans of Olympic captioning, they say this summer’s event, with its extensive web and Spanish captioning feeds, is the biggest yet.   “We couldn’t do this were it not for our dedicated team of caption experts and captioners,” says Chuck. “I am grateful every day for the extraordinary efforts our team makes to ensure delivery of accurate captions– especially now to Olympic viewers the world over.”

Be sure to tune in with the captions on at 7:00 PM EST this Friday, August 5th, for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and check back here on our blog next week for an update of our golden Olympic captioning coverage.

Logo for Rio Olympics 2016

Bilingualism on Live Television: a Captioner’s Perspective

VITAC Captions Speeches That Transition Between English and Spanish at the DNC

Karla Otriz speaks Spanish at DNC

As most of us are already well aware thanks to TV, social media, and the dinner table, the election season for most Americans is one of interest, excitement, hope, and sometimes frustration. For a closed captioning company, it is no different, except there is the added pressure of overlapping speakers in debates, political commentators vying for their three second talking point, and most recently, rapid transition between languages in national speeches.

This year’s Democratic National Convention brings an interesting challenge for those behind the steno machines. The democratic candidate for Vice President, Tim Kaine, is fluent in Spanish and has made multiple speeches thus far flipping between that and his first language, English.  In addition, on the first night of the DNC on Monday, multiple speakers also spoke Spanish and English in their addresses. They transitioned between one and the other seamlessly without much warning of transition. Some of the times, the speaker spoke in Spanish and translated their phrases into English as well. Other times, the Spanish was standalone, and there was no accompanying translation.

For the folks here at VITAC and those across the captioning industry that are responsible for accurate coverage of these events, the bilingualism presents a unique challenge. A caption industry veteran, Carol Studenmund, took to social media to address this very subject:

Facebook Post from Carol Studenmund

We reached out for comment and approval, and she said, “I was surprised by how many people thought someone would just peer over my shoulder and whisper in my ear and translate whatever was being said or ask “’why don’t we just have Spanish translators type it in?'”

A stenocaptioner is either trained in English or Spanish.   Even if one knows both theories, it is not possible to switch on the fly to another language during events that are captioned liveWe went to the source and asked some of our own realtime experts how they would handle the situation. Our realtime trainer, Karla Ray, confirmed Carol’s guess in her post and said that this issue had recently come up in reference to the current political events! She said they have told their captioners that “when Senator Tim Kaine starts speaking Spanish, use [Speaking Spanish ] when switching from English to Spanish in the same sentence or middle of speeches.” The approach allows for a captioner to quickly address what is being said and maintain accuracy during the event.

Tim Kaine speaking Spanish at nomination event

This is not the first time the National Convention stage has been an outlet for bilingualism. This article from NPR written during the 2012 convention highlights both party’s use of the two languages to accommodate the constantly shifting cultural landscape in America.

As the convention continues, and the campaign trail heats up in light of the approaching Election Day in November, it will be interesting to watch how the use of these two languages plays a role in both parties. We know that we, as well as our captioners, will be watching with interest, a smidge of anxiousness, and hyper-focused attention. Wish us all luck!

 

By: Tori Trimm

VITAC Behind the Scenes: The Finance Department’s Accounting Assistants

Spotlighting the work of Fran Zvonkovich, Lori Faraoni, Donna Fraser, and Joyce Matthews in Accounting.

Last time we met, Todd Osleger gave us just a peak into his role as a Senior Offline Captioner at VITAC. This week, we travel downstairs to Accounting Lane for a look at the roles that Accounting Assistants Fran Zvonkovich, Lori Faraoni, Donna Fraser, and Joyce Matthews play in keeping invoices, work orders, purchase orders, and balances all in check (a little finance joke). We so appreciate all of the work the Finance Department does for the entire VITAC team, and we are glad we got a chance to know a little more about what they do day to day.

Accounting Assistants at Work for VITAC
Accounting Lane in all their financial glory (Lori, Donna, Joyce, and Fran) .
Lori(left) and Donna(right) take a break for a little photo op

Q: What is your official title?

A: Accounting Assistants

Q: Can you walk us through a normal day at VITAC for you as a member of the Finance Team?

A: Our days usually begin with e-mail– addressing needs/problems/concerns from our clients and sales departments.  From there, there is no such thing as a normal day.  We prioritize our work based on the client/salesperson needs and deadlines, etc.

The following is a list of jobs that our department undertakes each day.

  • Invoicing which includes sorting/distributing and imputing data into detail sheets used during month end billing
  • Weekly [Wednesday ASAP] batches for our special clients
  • Daily check deposits and cash applications
  • Running client credit cards to pay for invoices
  • Posting vendor invoices for payment
  • Getting approvals for accounts payables
  • Weekly check run which includes: printing, signing, matching them to the invoices and mailing
  • Researching current information on clients with past due balances for collection purposes
  • Ordering supplies
  • Greeting guests, answering phones and distributing mail

Q: What are some of your favorite parts about the job?

A:

  • Interacting with our co workers
  • Getting paid for past due invoices
  • Seeing some of the interesting titles on the work orders that pass our desks

Q: What are some of the most challenging parts of the job?

A: Month end billing and collections

Q:  What advice would you give to those just starting out in the field or to anyone who wants to become involved in the Finance field?

A: Have good stress and time management skills and be flexible with your schedule.

Q: What do you do in your spare time not spent at VITAC?

Fran:  Riding my horse [Arc Angel] and exercising: walking, Zumba and swimming

Donna:  Yoga and healthy cooking

Lori:  Spending time with her family

Joyce:  Walking my dog [Sydney] and exercising: Yoga, Acro Yoga and Pilates

VITAC Finance Department at work
Fran (right) and Joyce (left) pictured working on various projects.

So great to hear from you all! Just four more reasons, why VITAC is “simply the best” and our customers keep coming back! Take a closer look at Our Team here for more insights on the wonderful employees that VITAC is so lucky to have.

By: Tori Trimm

 

“Hear Me. See Me. Know Me.” — An inspiring video about living with disabilities

Deaf-Blind teen, Brittany Winkleman, inspires many with video of personal narrative.

Brittany, left, works with aid in the classroom.
Brittany, left, works with her aid in the classroom.

Differences are a crucial aspect of what makes our culture as rich as it is, and yet, at times, they can be the biggest barrier to easy living within it. Brittany Winkleman, 18, has been “different” since she was born. Being both deaf and blind, Brittany is no stranger to adversity when it comes to her own disabilities and the assumptions people make about her. Despite the challenges she has faced, Brittany, a dedicated student with a passion for digital media and graphic arts, has never subscribed to the notion that her disabilities will keep her from doing what she loves. As of the video, posted in May of 2015, Brittany was preparing to graduate and attend college in the fall.

In a touching and inspiring video titled “Hear me. See me. Know me.” that she made for her senior project, Brittany walks viewers through her journey, staring when she was just two months old, with poignant clarity and optimism. There are clips of classmates, teachers, and aids who have been an integral part in Brittany’s success. She also touches on her own struggles with her disabilities, and how she had to come to think of herself in relation to her fellow classmates.

Left: Brittany poses with fellow classmate.Right: Brittany at work in the production studio for her digital arts class.
Left: Brittany poses with fellow classmate. Right: Brittany at work in the production studio for her digital arts class.

 

In addition to her personal narrative, Brittany explains some of the technology and tools that help her overcome the obstacles that her low vision and hearing loss present. Winkleman says in the video, “I can do anything, but I have to do it differently”.  At VITAC, we are dedicated to providing services to people like Brittany the world over, and are proud to be able to contribute, in whatever way we can, to enabling those with disabilities to live their lives on their own terms, be it in a slightly different way. This story was brought through Described and Captioned Media Program, an organization  funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the National Association of the Deaf whose mission is to “promote and provide equal access to communication and learning through described and captioned educational media”.  VITAC is a proud DCMP-approved caption vendor, and is thrilled that DCMP could provide a platform for Brittany to share her story.

Take a look at the video here made available with both audio description and closed captions through DCMP’s site.

Brittany leaves us with words to live by saying, “When you meet people who are like me, don’t assume they can’t do it, let them show you [they can]”.

Thank you, Brittany, for your powerful words, and we applaud your continued success.

By: Tori Trimm

Office of Civil Rights Ensures Website Accessibility

11 Educational Organizations Reach Settlements Over Web Accessibility Complaints

Keyboard Accessibility ButtonOn June 29th, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced that agreements had been reached with 11 different educational organizations in seven states and one territory, which had had complaints filed against them involving website accessibility. They were concerned with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of ADA—specifically with online services and programs. The settlements involved:

  • Juneau, Alaska, School District
  • Guam Department of Education
  • Montana School for the Deaf and Blind
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico, Public Schools
  • Washoe County, Nevada, School District
  • Davidson Academy of Nevada
  • Nevada Department of Education
  • Oregon Department of Education
  • Granite, Utah, School District
  • Bellingham, Washington, School District
  • The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The most common problems included absence of alt text on critical images, navigation barring blind and low vision users from using the website (exclusively requiring mouse movement for access), color combinations that made text difficult to read, and inaccurately captioned videos. The complaints led to investigations for each cited organization.

The OCR did not complete these investigations as all 11 educational organizations expressed interest in resolving the cases voluntarily.  The resolutions look relatively similar, though the timelines for implementation of the agreed solutions differ slightly.

First and foremost, all parties must affirm their commitment  to ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities equal to those of others to enjoy the websites’ programs, services, and activities, especially those delivered online.

9 of the 11 organizations are then required to perform a full audit of their website to assess any and all barriers to use for visitors with disabilities. Both Bellingham School District and Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Institution are not required to audit their websites. They are permitted to internally assess the site and report on proposed changes.

Following the audit, the steps are as follows:

  • Create policies and procedures that ensure accessibility for all newly developed site content.
  • Format all new website content and functionality to be accessible to people with disabilities
  • Form a plan for prioritizing and correcting all current barriers to accessibility on the site
  • Post a notice to those with disabilities instructing how to request access to online information or functionality that is currently inaccessible
  • Implement and consistently provide website accessibility training to any and all appropriate personnel

Read the full press release here.

These settlements are a huge win for the world of accessibility and will hopefully set a precedent for organizations (especially those in educational fields) to make web accessibility a priority.  As our world becomes all the more dependent on websites and online databases as a primary source of information and content, accessibility becomes all the more necessary.

To read more about the policies currently in place to protect the rights on those with disabilities, check our regulations page. For more updates coming out of the accessibility circuit, visit VITAC’s Accessibility News blog page!

By: Tori Trimm
 Intersection: Websites and Accessibility

 

 

Discovery Shark Week 2016: Captions by VITAC

VITAC Captions Discovery Shark Week

VITAC Captioning Shark Week_2016

Adrenaline, frantic swimming, fins, jaws, and… captions? That’s right, it’s officially the best week of the year: Shark Week 2016 on the Discovery Channel, and it’s captioned from start to finished by VITAC!

Shark week kicked off on Sunday with original programming, Tiger Beach, The Return of Monster Mako, and Isle of Jaws, which chronicled the discovery of a concentration of only male sharks off of an uncharted island. The sharks had completely disappeared from the group of Neptune Islands in Australia. Could this finding have had something to do with it?

Last night’s programming got a little more terrifying with shows such as Shallow Water Invasion, and Jaws of the Deep. Sharks Among Us, the third program shownshowcased a system developed by Dr. Craig O’Connell for humans and sharks to live in harmony.

Be sure to tune back in tonight at 9/8c for Wrath of a Great White Serial Killer and Air Jaws: Night Stalker immediately following at 10/9c. And be sure not to miss Shark After Dark at 11/10c where film writer, director and producer Eli Roth and guests discuss highlights of Shark Week after each night’s programming.

Be certain not to miss a word of any spine-tingling, thrilling moment… turn the closed captions on!

For the rest of Discovery’s Shark Week program schedule, visit their official Shark Week 2016 TV Schedule.

By Brittany Bender

VITAC’s M-Enabling Takeaways and Wrap-Up

VITAC Learns New About New Technologies, Opportunities and Challenges in the World of Accessible Media

Banner

Our blog post last week was just a preview of the M-Enabling Summit in Washington, DC held June 13-14, and attended by VITAC VP of Marketing Heather York, and Marketing Analyst Brittany Bender.

In Monday’s keynote address, Karen Peltz Strauss, Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, introduced Sen. Ed Markey (D.-Mass), “because of his work, we are in a place where  ability is no longer an afterthought.”

As discussed in last week’s post, Senator Markey discussed about 25 years ago, the ADA required physical ramps to be placed on curbs for wheelchairs, and it ended up helping everybody from parents with baby strollers to delivery people with carts. He noted similarities between these regulations and online media accessibility  and even referred to them as, “online ramps.” If everything online is made accessible, it will end up helping everyone. This was a theme throughout the summit.

The first parallel session of the day was Media on the Internet: Accessibility Challenges and Opportunities. Panelists included:

  • Chet Cooper, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, ABILITY Magazine
  • Peter Korn, Accessibility Architect, Amazon Lab126,
  • Mike Paciello, Founding Partner, The Paciello Group and WebAble.TV
  • Joel Snyder, Ph.D., President, Audio Description Associates LLC
  • Claude Stout, Executive Director, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI).
Web Accessibility_1
Joel Snyder, Ph.D., President, Audio Description Associates LLC weighs in on web accessibility online.

While many opportunities for accessibility were discussed such as captioning and audio description, the challenges and potential solutions were prominent. One of the challenges noted by Mike Paciello was that, “there’s absolutely no value proposition for accessibility.”

A solution proposed by the panel was to pressure companies and schools to make everything accessible, so that pricing for these services could come down. Another solution was to make accessibility mandated, but Peter Korn from Amazon pointed out that, “The problem with laws is that they only get us to minimums.”

The next parallel session attended by VITAC was 21st Century CVAA Scorecard, and panelists included:

  • Zainab Alkebsi, Esq., Policy Counsel, National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
  • Mark Balsano, Executive Director, Corporate Accessibility Technology Office (CATO), AT&T
  • Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind (ACB)
  • Matthew Gerst, Director, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA
  • Lise Hamlin, Director of Public Policy, Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)
  • Paul Schroeder, Vice President, Programs and Policy Group, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
  • Session chair Karen Peltz Strauss, FCC

“The question is has the CVAA been effective? The short answer is yes,” said Eric Bridges. There was discussion of the successes of the CVAA such as the captioning rules for television programming when delivered via IP.

M-Enabling_CVAA Scorecard Session_VITAC
Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind (ACB) speaking at the CVAA Scorecard session.

The day wrapped up with the FCC Chairman’s Awards for Advancements in Accessibility, presented by FCC Chariman Tom Wheeler.

These awards honor “outstanding private and public sector ventures that advance accessibility for persons with disabilities. Ventures include mainstream or assistive technologies introduced into the marketplace, development of standards, and implementation of best practices that foster accessibility.”

Tom Wheeler_FCC Chairman
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler giving short keynote before the awards for accessibility and innovation.

Winners included:

  • SOS QR – an Emergency Support App for People with Cognitive Disabilities
  • UnusTactus – App Simplifies Smartphones for People with Cognitive Disabilities
  • Wearable Sign Language Recognition System Prototype Interprets Motions and Displays Text
  • Disney’s Movies Anywhere App – Syncs Audio Description with Film Action
  • Sesame Enable – Users Can Engage Smartphone Controls with Head Gestures
  • eSight Eyewear – Headset with Videocam to Help People with Low Vision
  • Honorable Mention: Convo Announce – Allows Video and Text through PA System Announcements
  • Honorable Mention: KNFB Reader – App Reads Documents Using Smartphone Camera
  • Honorable Mention: Holy Braille Project – Researches Solutions for Low-Cost Braille Display Tablets.
FCC Chairman Award winners
FCC Chairman Award Winners Pictured with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC Karen Peltz Strauss

Tuesday’s plenary panel was Aging in Place: Innovations for Lifelong Digital Access and focused on accessibility for an aging population and new technologies and innovations to keep up.

The session chair was Andrew Johnson, Managing VP, Gartner Research.  Panelists included:

  • Nancy LeaMond, Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer, AARP
  • Amy VanDeVelde, National Connections Program Manager, The OASIS Institute
  • Marc Zablatsky, VP and General Manager, Ai Squared.
Aging In Place_M-Enabling
Aging in Place session at 2016 M-Enabling Summit

This session really drove the point that currently, there are 600 million people over 60 years old and the first sense that people begin to lose is their hearing. The aging population is only going to continue to grow. By 2043, Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials will all be collecting social security.

In the first VITAC-attended parallel session of the day, Global Status of Inclusive Technology in Higher Education, Compliance and Good Practices was chaired by Amy Goldman, Co-Director and Associate Professor, Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, and accessibility issues in universities and colleges all around the world were highlighted.

Panelists included:

  • Joy Kniskern, Strategic Initiatives, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Zerrin Ondin, Ph.D., Research Analyst, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Carolyn Phillips, Director, Tools for Life, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Licia Sbattella, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Accessibility/Natural Language Processing and President’s Delegate for Disability, Politecnico di Milano (G3ict Education Task Force Chair) (Italy)
M-Enabling 2016
One of the higher education sessions at M-Enabling 2016

It was in this session that it was pointed out that universities have a set of rules, guidelines, and regulations regarding accessibility to help achieve a level of standards so that all individuals are able to learn in these institutions.

Other sessions attended by VITAC included Global Opportunities for Real Time Text, Inclusive Higher Education Forum, New Tech Enablers for Accessible Learning Tools, and Roadmap towards Equal Access in Higher Education.

Heather and Brittany also had the opportunity to explore some of the exhibits, one of which was a demo of Amazon’s Alexa, a voice-operation system that makes a lot of Amazon media and tasks accessible for blind and low-vision individuals.

Amazon_M-Enabling
Amazon’s Display at M-Enabling 2016

VITAC is dedicated to staying at the forefront of accessible media solutions and technology. By attending conferences such as M-Enabling, there is an opportunity to network and collaborate with other like-minded professionals to work together to achieve accessibility for all.

By Brittany Bender