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Related NCAM Projects & Activities

Access to Emergency Alerts for People with Disabilities

NCAM's response to the FCC's Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 05-191), reviewing rules and policies concerning the Emergency Alert System (EAS; EB Docket No. 04-296).

Access to Locally Televised On-Screen Information

Now available:

Solutions for Providing People with Sensory Disabilities with Access to On-Screen Televised Information. This document describes best practices for making on-screen information accessible to all viewers, including information about NCAM's software packages, Multichannel Speech, which converts on-screen text to speech; and Caption Mover, which automatically relocates captions to avoid conflicts with other on-screen information.

Project description

Local television broadcasts serve as the primary source of information about emergency alerts, weather warnings, local traffic problems, and school closings in every community across the nation. These alerts are supposed to be presented in accessible formats for people with visual or hearing impairments, according to FFC requirements. Despite continual complaints to the FCC by consumers, however, noncompliance with these requirements is the norm through the industry. Most local newscasters are interested in serving the needs of all the constituents in their communities, and are themselves frustrated by lack of attention to this urgent need within current technologies.

NCAM addressed this problem through its Access to Locally Televised On-Screen Information project. Staff explored and prototyped solutions to enable local television stations to send messages, warnings and alerts that meet the communication needs of people with sensory disabilities. Specifically, NCAM developed procedures for enabling real-time conversion of on-screen text into speech output. Utilizing off-the-shelf speech synthesizers, staff worked with broadcast stations to make this data available via the secondary audio program (SAP) analog channel or auxiliary DTV audio channels. NCAM also addressed display conflicts between captions and on-screen graphics by developing methods of prioritizing text and graphics messages within automated display systems.

Other project activities are listed below.
  • Created methods for linking text with graphics, and for exporting text to speech synthesizers.
  • Developed prototype software utilities that import data from various sources, then extract, transform and prepare it for prioritized text display or for speech output.
  • Created demonstration models within newsroom facilities of partner television stations.
  • Published accessibility guidelines for local television stations which suggest implementation schemes for various equipment configurations, and provide recommendations for further study.
Project solutions for local broadcast technologies have also informed national recommendations in development by a separate NCAM project, Access to Emergency Alerts for People with Disabilities.