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Re: Audio formats

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2003 15:49:02 +1100
Cc: "Webmaster@EDD" <web@edd.ca.gov>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
To: Jonathan Chetwynd <j.chetwynd@btinternet.com>
Message-Id: <778B6D7B-43C5-11D7-89D6-000A95678F24@sidar.org>

Unfortunately I don't know of a radio station that produces content for 
the deaf community, although I hope some do. It has been seriously 
suggested in the WCAG group that Internet radio should be allowed to 
claim that they conform to accessibility guidelines despite completely 
failing to serve the needs of the Deaf community. I hope this doesn't 
happen - there may be grounds for exempting them from legal 
requirements in some policy frameworks, but to say they are accessible 
is simply wrong.

I prefer my news read by a newscaster I know, but I also prefer to have 
a drink with him, and that reduces the amount of time he has for 
recording all the material I want to listen to. In that case I prefer 
to listen to a high-quality voice on my machine. Living on a modem 
connection as I do, recorded audio of equivalent quality takes too long 
to download and the bandwidth doesn't allow for reliable and 
comprehensible streaming.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe all your students prefer 
recorded audio to generated audio, and that they all have a cognitive 
disability. I realise that there are other users of your site in the 
wide world who have a visual disability and no known cognitive 

For people who use screen readers, recorded audio is often an 
inconvenience. For people who find high-quality audio helpful, screen 
readers are often too expensive or too difficult to set up (there are 
four or five available in linux, and you can get distributions of linux 
that come preconfigured with screenreaders, free, but they currently 
tend to work in line-mode. The work on GNOME and Mozilla accessibility 
(largely funded by Sun, I believe) holds a lot of promise for free 
graphical and speaking systems. WebSound, which has been hidden for 
some time but I believe is about to reappear, was a very good step 
towards a better solution.

Currently we have a genuine conflict in the needs of people. A 
possibility in the short term is to use a system like Annotea  that 
provides pointers to audio versions of content for people who want 
them, and can be installed as a plugin to browsers (there are annotea 
clients available for IE, Mozilla, Amaya, command-line systems, and 
servers available for virtually any system).

I believe the answer lies in better development of technology, not in 
recording everything. One of the areas that is not currently easy, but 
should be in a few years, is to have better control over whether you 
use your local speech synthesis or get a high-quality version from 
somewhere else, and another is the ability to sythesise a particular 
person's voice (more or less...).



On Wednesday, Feb 19, 2003, at 06:46 Australia/Melbourne, Jonathan 
Chetwynd wrote:

> I'm not sure what you have in mind, but plenty of people enjoy 
> listening to the radio, via the internet, and this must include the 
> visually impaired.
> presumably some stations write their content for the deaf community. 
> Would you prefer your news read by a newscaster you know or a machine?
> Many of our users have a visual impairment, and may also have a 
> cognitive one.
> Our students undoubtedly prefer recorded audio at the present time, as 
> do children.
> Ours have experience of listening and understanding human speech 
> impediments.
> Children don't, in the main.
> It remains true that screen readers may appear to offer convenience, 
> if you have the funds available, the ability to configure and use one, 
> and the intelligence to understand what is being read.
> In any other case an alternative solution may be preferable.
Charles McCathieNevile           charles@sidar.org
Fundación SIDAR                       http://www.sidar.org
Received on Tuesday, 18 February 2003 23:48:57 UTC

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