What’s so cool about the VDRDC?

Posted by CLeininger on December 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm. Consumer Advisory Board, Techy, Video Description

CaptionMax has a dedicated Consumer Advisory Board with experts in all kinds of accessibility. We have invited Josh Miele, Ph.D. to be our next guest blogger. Dr. Miele is a Research Scientist with the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute where he conducts research in the areas of audiotactile graphics and auditory displays. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  You can find out more about Dr. Miele on his LinkedIn profile, by reading his editorial comments on accessible technology at his blog, or by following his more broadly focused twitter feed @BerkeleyBlink.

In addition to being an honored member of CaptionMax’s Community Advisory Board, I direct the Video Description Research and Development Center (VDRDC) at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. The VDRDC is investigating cutting-edge technologies for creating and delivering video description of the future. We are looking at new ways of using the web, cloud, and mobile phones, as well as techniques like wiki-style crowd-sourcing, to annotate and describe the ever-growing tide of video information in the home, on the web, and in the classroom.

In addition to investigating innovative description technologies, the VDRDC is conducting an important campaign of outreach and dissemination related to video accessibility for blind and visually-impaired people. These activities are being conducted in collaboration with an impressive group of partner organizations called the Description Leadership Network (DLN). CaptionMax is a proud partner in the Description Leadership Network, which also includes the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and the American Council of the Blind (ACB). The DLN also includes the Described and Captioned Media Program, Dicapta, the IDEAL Group, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Narrative Television Network. This amazing group of description stakeholder organizations is assisting the VDRDC with important research and outreach activities that include consumer focus groups, webinars for teacher training, professional development workshops, hands-on media experience for blind youth, academic publications, and more.

The following sections highlight two up-coming VDRDC events that may be of particular interest to fans and friends of CaptionMax.

Free Webinars For Teacher Training

In collaboration with DCMP (The Described and Captioned Media Program) and other DLN partners, we are kicking off the New Year with an exciting series of Free Educational Webinars about using innovative description technologies in the classroom. This series will be of particular interest to teachers, administrators, and parents of blind students. The first Webinar will take place on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 02:00 PM EST / 11:00 AM PST and will provide a solid foundation for anyone interested in providing better access to video for students with visual disabilities.

Webinar topics will include:
- A teachers’ guide to using video description
- A comprehensive overview of resources for obtaining described materials
- A sneak peak at the description technologies of the future being developed at the VDRDC

This is DCMP’s first of four teacher Webinars that will be produced in collaboration with the VDRDC and other DLN partners over the next two years. Each webinar will focus on a different aspect of description and classroom video accessibility for blind and visually-impaired students so don’t miss a single one! Register now! It’s free!  What are you waiting for?

Professional Development Workshop

Video Description has become more and more important, and with the FCC mandate in effect in July 2012, an increasing proportion of broadcast programming will be described and made accessible to blind people. This means that the coming months may bring an increase in demand for video description writers, voice-over artists, editors, sound engineers, and quality-control technicians. The VDRDC and the DLN is interested in preparing qualified blind and visually-impaired applicants for jobs such as these.

Blind and visually-impaired people should get involved in description – not just as consumers – but as professionals.  I believe that description quality may be significantly improved by employing blind people in the many positions crucial for professional description production, almost none of which require sight. This intensive workshop presents an innovative way to train a new generation of blind professionals to make valuable contributions to the description industry.

The VDRDC Professional Development Workshop will be organized by the National Federation of the Blind, a DLN partner, and will be lead by Rick Boggs,  a blind description professional with unparalleled experience at every level of the industry. This unique workshop will provide five days of intensive training in a wide variety of critical description skills for up to ten qualified trainees. Participants will become expert in different description guidelines, as well as in writing, editing, recording, and assuring description quality. For application information e-mail

Looking Ahead

The Webinars and Professional Development Workshop are just two of the projects undertaken by the VDRDC.  My next blog post will discuss more of the cutting-edge technologies we are investigating. There is also plenty more to be said about our up-coming focus groups, publications, open-source apps, and other projects. A final shout out to the good people at CaptionMax and our other valuable DLN partners. Watch this space for more posts, or check out the VDRDC website for more information about our research and outreach activities.

The VDRDC is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs , Grant No. H327J110005. This blog post does not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.



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