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Access Solutions for Rich Media Focus of Comprehensive, Department of Education-Funded Project

CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media to Work with Content Providers National Institutes of Health, PBS's NOVA and a Public High School Among Others

BOSTON - February 2001 - Video, audio, graphics and animation are fast becoming mainstream components of countless Web sites and intranets serving industry, education, commerce and communities. Many of the technologies used to create and play media on the Web still present significant barriers to people with disabilities. The National Center on Accessible Media (NCAM) Blue and White LogoCorporation for Public Broadcasting/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has been awarded a three-year grant by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education, to work with researchers, technology developers, Web designers and consumers to address these barriers.

NCAM's Access Solutions for Rich Media: Tools, Pathways, and Resources project will create and advocate for solutions which enable deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and low vision Web users to benefit from Web sites which employ multimedia. Resources developed by this project will impact the accessibility of Web sites and products in every conceivable environment—-in entertainment, in classroom education, in customer service and retail applications, in corporate training, in distance learning applications; in businesses and in cultural and community organizations.

NCAM will develop solutions and resources for Web designers and distributors who want to offer accessible Web sites and for technology developers whose products need to enable the creation and display of captions and descriptions. Solutions will serve rich media technologies such as streaming and non-streaming video and audio, dynamic HTML, animations, maps, and other forms of media that contain elements of interactivity or change over time. The project will also develop and release version 2.0 of the Media Access Generator (MAGpie), NCAM's caption and audio-description-authoring application. MAGpie will be available for free download from the NCAM Web site (version 1.0 is presently available).

NCAM has also established a Rich Media Accessibility Web site to provide Web designers, multimedia developers, consumers and access technology researchers with a centralized source of information, tools and discussion about multimedia access problems and solutions. The Rich Media Accessibility Web site will offer user-friendly tutorials, showcase solutions, and a library of other access solutions to make rich media accessible to blind and deaf Web users. Andrew Kirkpatrick has joined NCAM as technical project coordinator for the Access Solutions for Rich Media project.

Technology partners such as Microsoft and RealNetworks will review technical solutions. People with disabilities will help identify barriers and evaluate proposed solutions. Webmasters from a wide range of sites will test captioning and description tools and tutorials and provide content for showcase solutions. Participating organizations include the Library of Congress, Verizon, National Institutes of Health, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS), public television's science program NOVA, and the Cambridge Rindge and Latin public high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

NCAM and its fellow access departments at WGBH (The Caption Center and Descriptive Video Service®) make up the Media Access Group at WGBH. WGBH, Boston's public broadcaster, pioneered access to media for people with disabilities, by developing captioning and video description for television, the Web, and movie theaters.

NCAM is a founding member of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). NCAM works with standards bodies and industry to develop and implement open technical standards for multimedia, advanced television, and convergent media that ease implementation, foster growth and lay common groundwork for equal access to new technologies.

Contact: Mary Watkins, Media Access Group at WGBH, 617 300-3700 voice/fax, -2459 TTY


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