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DOJ Finalizes Ruling Requiring Movie Theaters To Provide Closed Captioning And Video Description

Posted by Anna on December 6, 2016 at 4:31 pm. ADA, Captioning, DOJ, Video Description
Interior of a movie theater

Interior of a movie theater

Last week, the Department of Justice issued its final ruling on regulations for movie theaters showing digital films to provide closed captioning and video description. The rule amends Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits public accommodations from discriminating against individuals with disabilities, and will go into effect January 17, 2017.

The Department found that despite movie studios regularly providing closed captions and video description as a part of their Digital Cinema Package (DCP), they were not consistently made available at all theaters or showings to patrons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or low-vision.

In addition to requiring hardware acquisition, theaters will need to provide a minimum number of captioning and description devices for patrons. The minimum number of devices increases with the number of auditoriums per venue.

Compliance for theaters showing digital movies prior to the ruling must be met by June 2, 2018. At this time, no specific requirements are imposed for theaters that exclusively screen analog movies, however any theaters that convert from an analog to a digital projection system subsequent to the ruling must comply with these requirements by December 2, 2018 or within 6 months of the completed installation of the new system, whichever is later.

For producers looking to deliver a fully accessible DCP for their feature films, CaptionMax can provide a streamlined workflow for closed captioning and video description, including mixes for 5.1 surround sound. Adding these services can expand the potential reach of your content to approximately 50 million Americans who are deaf or blind, leading to larger crowds at the box office.

Microsoft Highlights The Future Of Accessibility Online

Posted by Anna on October 26, 2016 at 5:17 pm. ADA, Consumer Advisory Board, Video Description, WCAG

Kelly sits at a desk next to his laptop.

Earlier today, Microsoft held their Windows 10 Event, a two-hour presentation of new products and features from the technology giant. Microsoft began with a video that underscores the importance of accessibility in the design process, stating: “We don’t build Windows 10 for all of us. We build Windows 10 for each of us.” While the video features how Windows 10 will be improved for people across a range of disabilities, it does a fantastic job of showcasing the enhancements for blind and low-vision screen reader users.

Senior Program Manager, Kelly, who is blind himself, is shown using Windows Narrator on his laptop with the voice sped up to increase efficiency. He says, “So right now we’re at about 80% of capacity of how Narrator could speak. And this is about how I would use my computer. That probably sounds like gibberish, but once you get used to this, it’s pretty quick.”

Most people are unfamiliar with screen reader technology, so it’s wonderful that Microsoft used a high-profile event to give greater context for its application. In past Consumer Advisory Board meetings, CaptionMax has asked its members to listen to different speeds of video description to help us determine how fast our narrators should speak when they record to optimize for quality and efficiency.

Text video description is another option that serves as a full alternative to the video, making it accessible to blind or low-vision individuals with screen reader technology and allowing them to choose their own speed. For several years, CaptionMax has provided text video description, also known as a “media alternative,” as a service for our clients who want to meet WCAG 2.0 Level A standards for their online video content.

We make media accessibility easy for our clients. In addition to helping them understand which services they need to become compliant and reach a wider audience, we offer the increased efficiency, security, and quality of having it all done under one roof. To learn more about WCAG 2.0 compliance, contact sales@captionmax.com.

How To Celebrate The Fifth Annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Posted by Anna on May 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm. ADA, CVAA, Captioners, Captioning, DOJ, Video Description, WCAG
Global Accessibility Awareness Day logo against a cloudy blue sky

Global Accessibility Awareness Day logo against a cloudy blue sky

Tomorrow marks the fifth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), and the story of how GAAD came to be is every bit as modern as the cause it champions:

“The idea of a Global Accessibility Awareness Day started with a single blog post written by a Los Angeles-based web developer,Joe DevonJennison Asuncion, an accessibility professional from Toronto discovered Joe’s blog post purely by accident thanks to Twitter. After reading it, he immediately contacted Joe and they joined forces, leveraging their extensive and respective networks to realize the event.”

Beginning in 2015, rather than using a fixed date, Devon and Asuncion decided to mark GAAD on the third Thursday of May. On their website, they provide a full list of in person and online events that the public is welcome to take part of.

At a time when website accessibility regulations are popping up everywhere, these events are a perfect opportunity to learn more about the future of online accessibility.

To learn how you can make your online video content accessible, contact sales@captionmax.com.

NYC, Europe Enact Website Accessibility Standards

Posted by Anna on May 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm. ADA, Captioning, DOJ, Video Description, WCAG
Illustration of computer with WCAG and related accessibility symbols on it

Illustration of computer with WCAG and related accessibility symbols on it

2016 has already been a big year for creating regulations around website accessibility. In March, New York City became the first major municipality in the United States to adopt legislation mandating accessibility standards for all of its government agency websites. The New York City government serves over 8 million people and employs approximately 325,000 for its 120+ agencies.

The law recognizes that Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA (”WCAG 2.0 AA”) is quickly becoming the international standard for website accessibility.  While the Department of Justice has continually delayed setting legally-required standards for state and local governments under Title II of the ADA, as well as public accommodations (which encompasses private businesses) under Title III, it has strongly indicated through investigations, settlements, and court filings over the last 5 years that websites will be deemed “accessible” if they are compliant with WCAG 2.0 AA standards.

The law requires that the City establishes a website protocol within 6 months. If the City chooses to adopt a protocol that differs from WCAG 2.0 AA, “it must first consult with experts in website design, conduct a public hearing, and ensure that any differences will still provide effective communication for persons with disabilities.”

Last week, more than three years after its proposal, members of the European Parliament, Council, and Commission agreed on the first EU-wide rules to make public sector websites and mobile apps more accessible:

The Directive will cover public sector bodies’ websites and mobile apps, from administrations, courts and police departments to public hospitals, universities and libraries. It will make them accessible for all citizens – in particular for the blind, the hard of hearing, the deaf, and those with low vision and with functional disabilities.”

The EU web accessibility policy requires that “top-level” EUROPA pages, as well as all new EUROPA pages and sub-sites should meet the WCAG 2.0 AA standards. They are currently working to bring as many lower-level pages as possible up to that same standard.

While WCAG 2.0 AA standards apply to many different aspects of websites, these are the guidelines for video content:

Level A (Beginner)

To conform to Level A guidelines, online content producers must provide the following:

Offline Captions Pre-recorded video content with audio must have closed captions.

Video Description Pre-recorded video content with audio must have video description OR text video description (media alternative) that is accessible using screen reader technology.

Level AA (Intermediate)

To conform to Level AA guidelines, online content producers must provide what is listed in Level A, as well as:

Live Captions Live streaming videos must have closed captions.

Video Description Pre-recorded video content with audio must have video description.

To find out more about how you can make your online video content compliant with these standards, contact sales@captionmax.com.

Senators, Public Push Obama For Title III Regs

Posted by Anna on January 27, 2016 at 10:30 am. ADA, Captioning
President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

In November, the Department of Justice announced they would not be issuing any regulations for website accessibility under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) until fiscal year 2018.  The DOJ began this process with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in 2010. Since then, they have repeatedly delayed delivering regulations. This delay, however, has resulted in a number of direct appeals to the Obama administration.

Minh Vu, who leads Seyfarth Shaw’s ADA Title III Specialty Practice Team, gave a detailed account of one group of senators’ action on behalf of their constituents:

“In late December, nine Democratic senators (Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.)) sent a joint letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting that office ‘complete its review’ of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ‘Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking’ (ANPRM) for public accommodations websites, online systems, and other information and communication technologies (ICT).”

Vu explains that while the senators’ specific request goes against proper procedure, the spirit of the letter still demonstrates they “share the frustration of businesses and advocacy groups alike over DOJ’s failure to provide clear and binding regulations on the issue of website and ICT accessibility in a timely fashion.”

And they are not the only ones airing that frustration. Earlier this month, a White House petition was created, asking President Obama to “direct the U.S. Department of Justice to promptly release the ADA Internet regulations.” Unlike the senators’ letter, which specifically advocates adopting the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level AA as the legal standard for accessible public accommodations websites, the petition does not suggest a specific course of action other than Obama prioritizing this as an urgent civil rights issue. In order to receive a formal response from the White House, it must collect 100,000 signatures by February 11.

While it is unlikely that either of these attempts will have much impact on regulations being issued anytime soon, the fact remains that Title III lawsuits are continuing to rise at a steady pace.

Department of Justice Delays Website Accessibility Regulations Till 2018

Posted by Anna on December 14, 2015 at 11:00 am. ADA, Captioning, Video Description
The exterior of the Department of Justice

The exterior of the Department of Justice

Last month, in a move legal experts in the field described as “astonishing,” the Department of Justice announced they will not issue any regulations for website accessibility under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) until fiscal year 2018. This is unwelcome news for many businesses that have been awaiting firm guidelines from the DOJ since it began the process with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in 2010.  The ADA Title III Specialty Practice Team at Seyfarth Shaw gave a number of reasons for why this process has been so murky:

“DOJ made a number of statements in the 2010 ANPRM that led businesses to reasonably conclude that they could and should wait for the regulation to issue before taking action. Among other things, the ANPRM acknowledged a need to adopt a legal technical standard for an ‘accessible’ website and asked how much time businesses should be given to comply. However, since issuing that ANPRM, DOJ’s enforcement attorneys have investigated numerous public accommodations, pressuring them to make their websites accessible. DOJ even intervened in recent lawsuits (e.g., herehere, and here) taking the position that the obligation to have an accessible website has existed all this time in the absence of any new regulations.”

The DOJ maintains that part of why it’s delaying regulations on Title III is so it can learn from the development of state and local government website regulations (under Title II) it is supposedly issuing in January of 2016.

While businesses have a considerable wait for official regulations, the DOJ has strongly indicated through investigations, settlements, and court filings over the last 5 years that any website will be considered “accessible” if it is compliant with the Level AA standards of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).  While WCAG standards apply to many different aspects of websites, these are the guidelines for video content:

Level A (Beginner)

To conform to Level A guidelines, online content producers must provide the following:

Offline Captions Pre-recorded video content with audio must have closed captions.

Video Description Pre-recorded video content with audio must have video description OR text video description (media alternative) that is accessible using screen reader technology.

Level AA (Intermediate)

To conform to Level AA guidelines, online content producers must provide what is listed in Level A, as well as:

Live Captions Live streaming videos must have closed captions.

Video Description Pre-recorded video content with audio must have video description.

America’s Next Top Model Nyle DiMarco Takes On American Airlines Over Lack of Captioning

Posted by Anna on December 11, 2015 at 11:38 am. ADA, Captioning
Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco

Last week, Nyle DiMarco became a household name. Not only was he the first deaf contestant on America’s Next Top Model, he was also the winner in the final season of the show, making him the last next top model ever. This came on the heels of DiMarco causing quite a stir on Twitter after calling out American Airlines for lack of captioning on their in-flight entertainment. November  24, Nyle tweeted:

@AmericanAir, your movies did not have subtitles for me as a Deaf person.  It is 2015.  When are you going to be 100% accessible for all?

@AmericanAir, your movies did not have subtitles for me as a Deaf person. It is 2015. When are you going to be 100% accessible for all?

Nyle’s tweet was met with enthusiastic support by fans, advocates, and Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who has done considerable advocacy herself to make the closed captioning of content universal. While American Airlines was swift to respond, many people found what was said to be unapologetic, unhelpful, and insensitive.

@NyleDiMarco The fact that close-captioned writing on small screens may cover the monitors.

@NyleDiMarco The fact that close-captioned writing on small screens may cover the monitors.

DiMarco did not hold back his feelings about American Airline’s response to his complaint, first saying, ” I can’t believe I’m reading this,” shortly followed by another tweet that said, “@AmericanAir went with an audist reply instead. An apology, sensitivity (re)training, & a solution are needed asap.”  DiMarco then retweeted a number of followers urging him to contact the National Association of the Deaf and file an ADA complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as individuals saying they planned to boycott American Airlines.

It looks like this is just the beginning of DiMarco using his newfound celebrity to draw more attention to the gaps in accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Yesterday, he was helping boost the #WHccNow (White House Closed Captions Now) movement, urging the Obama administration to add closed captions to all of the videos they publish to social media:

I believe in equality. @WhiteHouse please add CC to your videos to include your Deaf American citizens. #WHccNow

I believe in equality. @WhiteHouse please add CC to your videos to include your Deaf American citizens. #WHccNow

A huge congratulations to Nyle for making history and making a difference in the lives of millions of Americans.

Amazon Set to Closed Caption Back Catalog of On-Demand Video

Posted by Anna on October 19, 2015 at 10:30 am. ADA, Captioning, OTT

The National Association of the Deaf announced via press release last week that they have come to an agreement with Amazon over a plan to increase access of their on-demand entertainment service, Amazon Video, to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by adding closed captions to their entire back catalog.  Since the beginning of 2015, 100% of the content on Amazon Prime has already been captioned and, under this agreement, that rate is promised to continue.

The scope of this agreement means that captions will be added to approximately 190,000 titles by 2017.  Amazon has already made captions available on 85% of its video content that has been viewed more than 10 times in the past 90 days. By December 31st, 2015, 90% of such content will be captioned, reaching 100% by December 31st, 2016. All captions added to Amazon will comply with recently updated FCC quality standards for completeness, accuracy, synchronicity, and placement.

Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, declared that the agreement was a huge win for consumers: “This is an enormous step in making online entertainment accessible to the 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States alone. Amazon is a one-stop shop for everything from household items and clothing to books and video entertainment.  The NAD is thus thrilled by Amazon’s decision to make its online entertainment experience more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing customers who also look to Amazon to fulfill their needs for comprehensive goods and services.”

As more and more streaming platforms emerge for entertainment distribution, Amazon is setting an important example of the type of commitment necessary to make those platforms as widely accessible as possible.

Tech Trends: Mobile Assistive Technology

Posted by Anna on August 25, 2015 at 11:30 am. ADA, Captioning, Video Description

CaptionCast in use on a smartphone

Increased mandates for closed captioning and video description have caused accessible media in the home to  come a long way since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, but there are many other venues where accessibility needs to catch up to the consumer, such as museums, amusement parks, and sporting arenas. Fortunately, there are some companies that have made great strides to make this type of mobile assistive technology possible.

CaptionCast is EEG Enterprises’ wonderful solution for streaming captions in a wide variety of live events and venues. The browser-based mobile application streams live captioning directly to smart phones, tablets, and other hand-held devices while seamlessly integrating into a facility’s existing caption authoring system. Each event has its own unique ID that attendees enter into the app, giving them access to captions in stadiums, arenas, conference centers, and other large-scale venues. The end user can even select how they want the captions to be displayed.

The Durateq ATV in use at an exhibit

For facilities such as theme parks and museums, the Durateq ATV offers an incredible solution for delivering assistive technology in a way that is elegant and immersive.  Using infrared transmitters and receivers, content can be triggered automatically on this handheld device as an attendee enters an exhibit or show area, with no need for pressing additional buttons or punching in number codes.  In outdoor venues such as national parks, GPS is used to trigger location-based content. Not only does the Durateq ATV offer assistive listening and closed caption, it can provide video description as well.  It has been used in Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the World of Coca-Cola Museum, and AT&T Stadium, among other locations.

As this type of technology becomes widely adopted, the world of entertainment beyond television will open up to millions of Americans living with visual or hearing-related disabilities.

ADA Celebrates 25 Years

Posted by Anna on July 23, 2015 at 12:00 pm. ADA
ADA 25: Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA 25: Americans with Disabilities Act 1990-2015

This coming Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. The legislation includes both mental and physical medical conditions, which do not need to be severe or permanent to be considered a disability. While in many ways similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal, the ADA also imposed accessibility requirements on public accommodations, as well as requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.

Though it was met with resistance by some religious and business organizations who cited that the effects would be too financially burdensome, George H. W. Bush emphasized how overdue this essential legislation was as he signed it into law:

“I know there may have been concerns that the ADA may be too vague or too costly, or may lead endlessly to litigation. But I want to reassure you right now that my administration and the United States Congress have carefully crafted this Act. We’ve all been determined to ensure that it gives flexibility, particularly in terms of the timetable of implementation; and we’ve been committed to containing the costs that may be incurred. Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

President George H. W. Bush signing the ADA into law

President George H. W. Bush signing the ADA into law July 26, 1990

The ADA has undoubtedly changed millions of lives for the better.  And while there is so much more progress to be made, there is quite a bit to celebrate this coming weekend.

 

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