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Re: audio description in live broadcasts

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Wed, 04 Jul 2001 12:12:19 -0400
Message-Id: <200107041603.MAA1808141@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Responses at AG:: below.

At 09:28 AM 2001-07-04 , Jennifer Sutton wrote:
>At 03:19 PM 7/3/01 -0400, Morris, Lynn wrote, in part:
>>The real challenge to 508-compliant multimedia is going to be incorporating
>>audio descriptions in live broadcasts.  I'd love to see an example of that,
>>if it's out there.

AG:: See David Poehlman's post for a specifically

But more generally, all you have to do is go to the ball field and survey all
the people in the stands who are listening on their radios while watching the
game live in real time.  The people who think their audience has only the
give you better audio than does the ballpark or the TV broadcast.  And the
consumers know it.  And outside of Pro Wrestling, it is unrehearsed real-time
content that is being described.  From a predictable range of activities. 
Government broadcasts are more predictable than sports events.  There
be a problem.  Troll for people with sportscasting credentials.

>Now, I suppose that I can see occasions where this *could* be a 
>challenge.  However, it seems to me that most live broadcasts can be 
>adequately audio-described by the presenters themselves.  For example, a 
>presenter should always verbalize the contents of a chart or graph to which 
>he/she is pointing.  What's more, isn't this simply good presentation 
>practice--to address the various learning styles of all audience members?

AG:: I don't believe that this is best practice in the absence of people in
audience that need it.  This workaround is a fairly brutal distortion of
presentation practice.  There has to be an element of surprise in the audio
stream, or one stands to lose the attention of many people, and thereby waste
the opportunity to communicate with them.

In an asynchronous context it is relatively easy to put all the data out there
and let each learner take their own tour according to their learning style. 
[There are limitations to the effectiveness of this strategy in eLearning,
but here I am just noting the difference between asynchronous contexts and
time events.]  When a group is gathered for a synchronous exchange,
particularly a one-way exchange such as a lecture or broadcast, it is quite
another matter.  Here there is only one timeline, and the audio is the central
medium that is one-to-one with that common backbone of hard real time.
Time in
the audio channel is precious, not to be spread around without price, without
tradeoffs between competing pressures for thoroughness and economy of time. 
One can fail to communicate by spending too little time on something.  But one
can also fail to communicate by spending too much time between A and B, so
the connection between A and B does not come across.

The difficulty real-time description is that one has to have good reflexes for
getting on the mike and getting out of the way at the right time.  This calls
for someone young.

A possible scenario for the insertion of audible description would be in Ms.
Frimpter's seventh-grade science class, where they do such dynamic
demonstrations that one time they set the fire alarm off and had the whole
school out in the playground.  The principal didn't understand why the seventh
grade science class was standing there snickering...

The way one could incorporate audible description in a seventh grade science
demonstration is that there is a contest for who gets to be the play-by-play
announcers, with tryouts and a regular rotation of people from a cadre that
qualifies.  They have a headset mike that goes to an earphone the blind or
visually impaired student listens in on.  The skill is to inject remarks in
gaps of the teacher's lecture, filling in a prioritized summary of what is
and not said.  Getting to talk during the class time is a perk that will
motivate many loudmouths in the class to aspire to this role.

The problem in the 508 market is that you can't just reach out and by
competitive tryouts qualify a cadre of journeyman describers from the ranks of
the seventh grade.  Finding people who currently have this capability among
ranks of those legal to work in formal jobs is going to be harder than it
is in

But we are all familiar with the general format, from hearing radio broadcasts
of sports.  Invoke that image and people will grasp the tag-team relationship
between the speaker and the describer.

I am not saying that the speaker(s) should not be coached on the needs of
visually impaired audience members, and that it won't work better if they
rehearse with a describer and adjust their media mix and flow to tune the
multi-option, multi-media presentation so all modes of play work.  But for a
broadcast, having conditional audio content -- that some listen to and some
don't -- provided by a describer, is a better solution overall than simply
having the presenter read everything that is in the visual presentation.


>So, in short, perhaps this is more of a challenge to educate trainers about 
>why best practice is important for everyone, rather than an issue of 
>technological barriers and challenges.
Received on Wednesday, 4 July 2001 12:03:43 UTC

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