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Access to E-Books: Beyond the Text Project

From: geoff freed <geoff_freed@wgbh.org>
Date: 16 Oct 2003 13:59:38 -0400
Message-ID: <1001673928geoff_freed@wgbh.org>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media Awarded Grant to
Develop Access Solutions for Multimedia in E-Books

Boston, MA.  The National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at Boston
public broadcaster WGBH has been awarded a three-year grant from the U.S.
Department of Education to study ways to make multimedia (images, audio and
video) used in electronic book formats (e-books) accessible to people who
are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired.

E-books offer online and portable access to traditional print media—
fiction, nonfiction, textbooks, professional journals and other content- via
personal computer, laptop, library systems or personal digital assistants
(PDAs).  The use of e-books is steadily increasing, as is the amount of
content publishers are making available in this format.  Many e-book
formats contain features such as audio and video playback, built-in
dictionaries, easy-to-read type, highlighting, note-taking, bookmarking,
text searches and direct Internet connections.  All these features offer
considerable learning resources for users, sophisticated tools for educators
and an entirely new development and distribution model for publishers,
particularly in the educational market.

These features could also enhance and improve access to information for users with disabilities.  Accessible e-books promise learners who are blind or deaf equal access to trade, text or scholarly books, a major leap forward in leveling the playing field for people with disabilities at home, at work and at school.

The goal of the project, called "Beyond the Text," is to enable deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind, visually impaired or deaf-blind users to easily locate, activate and utilize accessible multimedia content within various e-book formats and hardware devices.  Staff are currently evaluating e-book software and hardware for multimedia capability as well as for general accessibility to
users with hearing or vision loss.  Project activities will yield accessible
prototypes and a set of recommended practices for those interested in
creating multimedia that is usable regardless of hearing or visual acuity.

A comparison chart of e-book and digital talking book (DTB) hardware and software is now online, as is the project's first prototype e-book with
captioned multimedia.  These and other resources, which will be updated
throughout the project, can be found at http://ncam.wgbh.org/ebooks.

Beyond the Text builds on existing NCAM research initiatives such as the Access to Rich Media Project and Specifications for Accessible Learning
Technologies/SALT (http://ncam.wgbh.org), as well as the work now underway
in publishing and educational consortiums and standards organizations such as
the DAISY Consortium (http://www.daisy.org), the Open eBook Forum
(http://www.openebook.org), the World Wide Web Consortium (http://www.w3c.org) and the American Foundation for the Blind Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum (http://www.afb.org/education.asp).

The project grows out of WGBH's three decades of experience pioneering and
furthering access solutions to mass media for people with sensory
disabilities.  WGBH developed captioning for television in the early '70s,
brought video description (which describes on-screen action, settings,
costumes and character expressions during pauses in dialogue) to television
and videos in the late '80s.  Throughout the '90s, these services were
applied and integrated into other forms of mass media, including movie
theaters (via WGBH's "MoPix" technology and service), Web sites (via WGBH's
MAGpie, a free software tool that enables do-it-yourself captioning and
description for digitized media) and classrooms (through projects which
utilize captioning and description to increase literacy levels and foster
inclusiveness for all students).  Today, all of WGBH's access initiatives
are gathered in one division, the Media Access Group at WGBH.

About WGBH
WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source
of nearly one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion online content
as well as many public radio favorites. Its production menu is diverse,
including Nova, Frontline, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow,
ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre, Arthur, and Zoom on PBS and The World and
Sound & Spirit on public radio. WGBH is a pioneer in educational multimedia
(including the Web, broadband, and interactive television) and in
technologies and services that make media accessible for people with
disabilities. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys,
Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards, even two Oscars. In 2002, WGBH was honored
with a special institutional Peabody Award for 50 years of excellence. For
more information visit www.wgbh.org.

Date:  October 2003

Contact:  Mary Watkins, Media Access Group at WGBH
617 300-3700 voice, 617 300-2489 TTY
Received on Thursday, 16 October 2003 13:59:44 UTC

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