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Accessibility of Digital TV and motion pictures

Kevin Carey, Vice Chairman, Royal National Institute of the Blind (UK)and
Richard Orme, Head of Accessibility, Royal National Institute of the Blind

Carey: Thank you very much. I’m going to talk about the current what I consider to be a crisis in accessibility for blind people. As Hiroshi said, I’m going to talk about television and moving pictures but also introduce some discussion of the web to look at integrated standards.

We’re facing a crisis in access to digital information by blind and visually impaired people because of medium-specific rather than generic strategies, the graphics explosion and the declining leverage of legislation and regulation. To understand where we are now, we need to look at the analog past and the way that digital technologies have emerged.
Because analog media came from very different backgrounds, the way that they’ve been regulated is radically different. In almost all countries where printing has been introduced the licensing of presses was a matter of state control but it was not long before the notion of text piracy became tied up with the rights of authors, so the very stringent copyright laws have far outlasted state censorship.
In almost every country, analog broadcasting was strictly regulated first simply because it could be. Politicians and the establishment felt safer that way. Secondly, broadcasting spectrum, being scarce, gave government regulators leverage. Music (always subject to piracy stretching back to the first printed music) has a strong copyright regime with a tradition of stringent regulation and the use of litigation to maintain rights.

The advent of digital technology has had a large number of consequences. Piracy is simple and cheap, threatening all current copyright models. The analog silos of the printed text, the audio recording and the celluloid film have been broken down. Global networks are difficult to regulate so that regulation will cause operational migration.
Now turning to media and accessibility, the histories of the regulation of different analog media have had an impact on the way they’ve been regulated, as I’ve said. The biggest regulatory impact on print has been copyright and it’s maintained its hegemony over theories of access rights almost until our own day. What applies in strong form to print applies in an even stronger form to audio and music. The leverage of broadcasting regulation has allowed state broadcasters in particular to require concessions in exchange for spectrum (for example, audio description and subtitling).
The major manifestation of convergence is the Worldwide Web, which is ostensibly self-regulated. That part of self-regulation that deals with accessibility is falling behind that part which is developing new standards. By 2015 the text content of the web will be microscopic compared with multimedia traffic. Indeed, one basic principle which we’ll need to adopt is one in which any rights of access are generic rather than medium or platform-specific. There’s no point, for example, securing rights of access to digital television and then being forced to start from scratch with high-definition television.

One of the curiosities of analog media is the way in which different traditions grew up. I cite the tiny but interesting example of United Kingdom alternative format production where pictures are always described in talking books and hardly ever described in Braille books. A few Braille books have tactile graphics but I’ve never seen an audio book with tactile graphics.
At a more generic level, there has naturally been a great deal of emphasis in television accessibility on audio description whereas web accessibility has concentrated on describing static graphics. In DVD accessibility there’s been proper emphasis on the accessibility of menus and start procedures but this has not morphed into an equal concern for television electronic program guides.
It seems to me that we should start with three basic digital media accessibility principles. Here for the interpreters and signers I will slightly summarize my points. All media should be coded to recognized standards, which include the principles of granularity (the ability to manipulate tiny elements of a file) and progressive enhancement, which means that there’s always a basic manipulable form as well as more advanced manifestations that are very difficult to make accessible. Secondly, all media should be distributed in a form independent of the platform and/or user interface so that the end user can choose whether the material is accessed, for instance, on a television, a telephone, a PDA, a computer or devices not yet invented. The third principle is that the media should produce multimodally so that as far as possible graphics, audio and language can deliver the author’s intention separately but where the three strands are mutually reinforcing.
There are a number of different but not mutually exclusive justifications for these requirements. First is fiscal. State broadcasting and government media funded from taxation should observe a very high standard of accessibility. Second is legislative. Governments may decide to guarantee a right of access to information that’s in the public domain. This at the very least should be equal to copyright protection so the two rights can be held in tension. In my view, a universal, unqualified right will not work because compliance (not least from governments) will be very poor. We should either consider a generic right from which an exception can be granted or a targeted right which requires compliance from, for example, governments, agencies funded by governments and agencies licensed to operate by governments. Thirdly, there’s an economic justification. While the general claim for a business case for accessibility rests on the doubtful premise of the unlimited availability of capital, the long economic tail of digital content and the ease with which it can be upgraded justifies a high degree of multimodal multimedia in areas such as broadcasting, commercial cinema and government information.

I should say a further word about my caution over universal accessibility rights. The peculiar problem for access by blind and visually impaired people to digital media is the falling cost of producing static and moving pictures and the rising cost of producing clear, simple language. The plummeting cost of digital photography has revolutionized every aspect of the family and professional use of the internet. The trend towards pictures is now reinforced by globalization and national multilingualism. At the same time, that very multilingualism has put a high premium on simple, clear language. But at the same time, the general cultural trend in multilingual societies is to use language less precisely.
This is why the debate about how to enforce standards is so important. I think we will have to consider three factors: what blind and visually impaired people need and want, what capacity an organization has to deliver and the social gain from delivery. In many countries, there will be an extreme dilemma as to whether new media comes under regulated broadcasting or much more liberal publishing legislation. The libertarian in me wants publishing but the accessibility advocate in me wants broadcasting. Whatever this turns out to be, we do not have much time to define our needs, generate standards and justify what we advocate.
Web 2.0 with its almost unimaginable expansion, graphic content and sloppy coding should be a warning to us all but not only because of what it tells us about accessibility but also because of what it says about creativity. For too long we’ve concentrated on the ability of blind and visually impaired people to access and process data created largely by government and by industry. But we’ve spent very little time on the standards which enable people to contribute to social networks. While it’s by no means clear how far Web 2.0 will be a significant economic as opposed to a social phenomenon, we’re fast approaching the time when our accessibility concerns will have to embrace creativity.
If we’ve learned anything during the past two decades, it is that the policymakers have been unfocused while the engineers have been too obsessive. Now is the time for us all to form effective teams to realize the standards which will keep the disadvantage of blind and visually impaired people in the media world as small as possible. Thank you very much.

Orme: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you very much for staying to the bitter end. I know this has been a long day for you. I realize that the issues of television can be presented using slides but this afternoon I will also be showing you some video, which will present some unique challenges to our interpreters. Before each of those videos, I will try to introduce them. I’ll also play some sound clips, too.
Let me start, then, by introducing myself. My name is Richard Orme. I’m the head of accessibility at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, which is the UK’s agency recognized by government to serve the needs of blind and partially-sighted people. Since I’m showing video and playing audio in this presentation, it’s probably a good idea I test it out.

Let’s start with this one.


Orme: This presentation is about access to television and to movie films. I thought that was an appropriate clip to play. But since I am in Japan, I should play the clip from a Japanese film studio, too.


Now, I certainly don’t recognize that but I hope that some of you do.
The overview of this presentation, then. First of all, I will answer the question “what is audio description?” I know it’s been referred to certainly in Kevin Carey’s presentation but every time we speak about this, there are many people in the audience who perhaps can understand the concept of audio description but have never had the opportunity to experience it. This afternoon is your chance to experience some audio description. I said I had some unique challenges for the interpreters. We will also have audio description in German, French and Hindi. I will then talk about how people can get audio description on TV, in cinema and on DVD. I will talk about access to DVD menus. I will talk about the very important issue of access to digital television and I will end with a call for worldwide action.
What, then, is audio description? It is an additional commentary which describes body language, expressions and movements, making the story clear through sound. I’m going to show now a movie clip without audio description and then I’ll show it with audio description. This is a short excerpt from a TV drama of “Hercule Poirot,” Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective. For those of you who cannot see, I have blurred the image on the screen so you really can’t see what’s going on. You can just see some shapes and things moving around.

Hastings: Lost your ball again, Poirot?

Poirot: Shh! Keep out of sight. Look!

[Music and sounds]

Poirot: Have you seen enough, Hastings? I must regretfully abandon our most interesting game and go and telephone the Chief Inspector.

Orme: We heard some bubbling noises and some rattling in the grass, maybe, but it was very difficult to follow, I’m sure. I’ve spoken with many people who tell me that they’ve sat through a whole TV film and then at the end there’s a gunshot and the then the titles roll and they don’t know who shot who and what happened. We’ll now see the same clip but with audio description and you will hear the voice between the gaps in the dialog describing what’s happening.

Description: Poirot hides behind some bushes watching Jane on the green.

Hastings: Lost your ball again, Poirot?

Poirot: Shh! Keep out of sight.

Description: Hastings stoops and joins Poirot behind the bush. Jane scans suspiciously around the course.

Poirot: Look!

Description: She puts her club into a golf bag. Picking up the golf bag and a small leather case next to it, she sets off down a grassy incline with a final look around. As she disappears from view, Hastings and Poirot emerge from the bushes and hurry after her. Carrying the golf bag and a small brown attache case, Jane makes her way through the dense, fern-strewn undergrowth with Poirot and Hastings in pursuit. Keeping low, they duck behind a bush as Jane puts down her golf bag at the side of a lake. She looks furtively to and fro, swings back her arm and then hurls the case into the middle of the lake. It bobs on the surface amongst the weeds and lily pads for a few seconds then sinks slowly out of sight. A few air bubbles rise to the surface. Poirot turns to Hastings.

Poirot: Have you seen enough, Hastings? I must regretfully abandon our most interesting game and go and telephone the Chief Inspector.

Orme: That was a lot easier to follow, I’m sure you’ll agree. That is audio description, then, on television. I’ll now go back to my presentation.

Now, I explained earlier that audio description is available in English but it’s also available in other languages.

Announcer: Alexandra Palace, biggest TV transmitter in North London…[continues in background]

Orme: This clip is just to demonstrate it’s available in different languages. This is Dr. Who in English.

Description: The doctor rushes back into the shop.

Orme: I’ve moved now to German.


Orme: And then some Spanish.


Orme: And finally Hindi.


Orme: I’m sure that was a real challenge for the interpreters and thank you again for your work on this. I’ve demonstrated audio description and shown that it is available in a number of countries and in a number of different languages. How, then, can people get audio description in the UK on television? A range of different programs are audio described in the UK. In fact, there is a legal requirement on most channels for them to broadcast 10% of their programs with audio description. That is over 70 television programs broadcasting audio description.
But 10% we believe is not enough and we are campaigning for more. But, in fact, many of the broadcasters are voluntarily broadcasting more than the minimum legal requirement. The BBC broadcasted a radio program just yesterday where they were answering viewers’ requests for more broadcasting. In that, they revealed that on BBC1 (the main channel) they are broadcasting 15% and on BBC3 in excess of 20%. So this is a service the broadcasters are able to deliver.
There are three main ways that people watch television in the UK. They use cable, they use satellite or they use terrestrial through a rooftop aerial. Everyone who has cable or satellite TV is able to receive audio description now for free. For people who are using terrestrial television, all Sony and all Panasonic integrated television sets and a range of set-top boxes also can decode the free view signal.
Increasingly people now, though, are also using broadband TV. There’s a very popular service from the BBC called iPlayer. Again, yesterday they announced that in March they will be announcing by what date audio description will be available online. They are confident it will be very, very soon. In the future, there will be more IPTV, people watching television over the internet. Audio description will be included in those sorts of services and they will make use of some of the core technologies of DAISY to deliver it.
Let’s think about audio description in the cinema where the movie experience is often the best, perhaps, with a big screen and loud audio and all of the popcorn and people around you. In the UK, most major film releases have audio description at the time of their release. Over 300 cinemas in the UK are equipped with special equipment where they would lend a blind person a headset. They would go into the same showing as their sighted friends and family and they would listen to the audio description track as well as hearing the movie soundtrack through the speakers in the theater. There are, then, we’ve calculated over 20,000 showings of audio described films every month in the UK.
The Cinemas Exhibitors Association (the trade association) have developed a card which means that if you are blind you are able to take a guest with you into the cinema to guide and you only pay for one ticket. The problem then is simply deciding who is paying, the blind person or their guest.

My last note on cinema is the largest place in the world that is producing the most movies is Bollywood in India. It’s very important that films coming out of Bollywood can be enjoyed by blind people, too. So we are working on a project with colleagues in India to look at how we bring this about and we’re producing audio described films through that.
I’m turning now to audio description on DVD. In the UK, you simply need to go and buy or rent regular DVDs, not special versions. There are around 350 titles available in the UK and these are all of the major film releases, basically. What one does is you put your DVD into your regular DVD player. As the movie starts you press the audio button, which switches between different languages and maybe has a directors commentary and one of the soundtracks is audio description. Were we to watch Hercule Poirot, for example, you could choose whether you had the soundtrack with the audio description or without on a regular DVD player. It’s easy to use and easy to enjoy.
Now I’m turning to access to digital TV. If you feel that we spoke about this earlier, just before in the presentation I was talking about how you could get audio description on your television. But if you cannot see and you cannot navigate the electronic program guide to find the programs that you want to watch out of the 80 or 200 or 800 channels, then it’s almost not worth having the audio description on the programs. People are finding in the UK that they’re moving from having maybe four channels in the old analog system to having many hundreds of channels for them to enjoy if they can find what they want to watch. This is quite confusing. It can be confusing for older people who just want to sit and watch television. This is something that has come to them through a government decision. It’s not a request that they are able to make. It’s not a choice on their behalf. The old analog television system is being switched off.

We know that this is an issue at RNIB and we have been advocating for televisions to be more accessible at a national and European level. There are a number of conventions and communications that talk about access to ICT and we consider digital TV to be a part of that agenda. We see TV as a basic human right. We know that blind people watch TV just as sighted people do and, indeed, when we have done surveys we find they watch more television than they listen to the radio. It’s an important part of people’s conversation down at the pub, at school or at college.
We have had many meetings with TV manufacturers and trade associations. Whilst some companies-Sony and Panasonic, in fact, are a couple who have made some minor changes to their products to make it easier for people to turn audio description on. We simply haven’t had any real, concerted effort to make televisions accessible for people who aren’t able to see the screen. In fact, in meetings we have been told point blank that we are insane and that making a television talk is technically not possible. We don’t believe them, so we’re doing it instead.
I’m going to talk about two RNIB developments that we have which will be bringing products onto the market this year. The first is an add-on box. I have on the screen a picture of a regular set-top box that is used for satellite in the UK. In fact, I have one in my bag, so here it is, if I can get it out. I’m holding it up now. It’s a regular set-top box. It just sits, in fact, usually under the television so I don’t know why they call it “set-top.” There are 9 million or 10 million of these set-top boxes in the UK. They are produced by the service provider. There’s nothing special about this box. How much is it? They’re free, actually. You get them with your service or you can buy them on EBay if you want more than one in your house. I bought this one for 30 pounds. This is mine from my house.

On the back of the box there are a number of connections for plugging in the satellite feed and plugging it into the television and so on. There is also a data port that was used by the satellite broadcaster for a product that has now been discontinued. Out of this data port comes some information about the TV program that is being on watched or the buttons on the remote that are being pressed.
We have developed a box that plugs into that data port and makes the television talk effectively. I’m holding the box up now. It’s about the size maybe of two playing card packs. It simply has a connection for the lead to go into the back. When one changes the channel, it tells you the channel name. It tells you the channel number and it tells you the program name. If you press the numbers of the remote to change to channel, say, 104 it will read you the numbers “1, 0, 4” so you know you’ve pressed them correctly.
There’s also a feature where if on the remote control you press the “info” button on the screen it gives you a description about what that program is. It will talk that message, as well. Now I will show you a demonstration, a movie, of that happening. You will hear the audio of the television (the music, the different actors and people talking) but you will also hear the robotic voice that is announcing what is happening on the television.

Female Speaker: This is a demonstration…

Robotic Voice: BBC1 West …, “Midlands Today.”

TV: England’s first test against South Africa starts on Thursday at 10:45.

Robotic Voice: BBC2 England, “News Night.”

TV: …involved in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive poisoning.

Robotic Voice: ITV1 Central W, “News at Channel 4, Big Weather.”

TV: New Aibena 100% pure juices. Let us…

Robotic Voice: 10 PM, “Big Weather.” Highlights from the past 24 hours. Liza struggles to fight her way out of a paper bag in today’s task. …Start… is becoming paranoid about how he is being viewed by the outside world. Channel 4 on channel 104. 1, 0, 1. BBC1 West…, “Nightline.”

Orme: With this little box, which is very cheap (and in fact we hope that the service provider will just make these and give them to the subscribers who want them), it doesn’t give you access to the whole electronic program guide but it means that you are able to move around the different channels. You know which channel you have moved to. You know what the program is and you can find some information about that current program.
We made 15 of these boxes just to try them out with people. I gave one to the mother of a 9 year old boy. A couple of months later when I went to get it back again, they wouldn’t give it back. He now is able to change the channels on his television and choose the programs he wants to watch without having to go and ask one of his sisters all the time to help him find the right program. He said he would like the voice to be a bit better but really, it’s great and it does what he needs it to do. I think with this one we have shown for the first time that it is entirely possible through some innovation to make televisions talk but we want to go further than that and I will tell you about our next project. We are also developing a set-top box for the digital terrestrial service. The idea here is not to position RNIB as the producer of the talking box for blind people. We are working in partnership with industry partners and our intention is that in due course we can step back from this work and others will incorporate these features. This is to address that challenge that it is not possible to make TVs talk. We will show it is possible. We will develop the technology and then people can get on and do it.
There’s a picture of the remote control on there. Through this piece of work, also, we need to develop a really good remote control that works well and we have done that. It has all of the usual sorts of features that one would expect from a really good remote control. The buttons are nice and tactual. They’re shaped differently. They’re grouped logically. There’s great contrast between the numbers and the buttons and the background, as well. There are single buttons to be able to turn on subtitles or audio description. You don’t have to go through menus.
I’m now going to play a video of this one working. It will show you the speech working within the electronic program guide. This is the grid that comes up to show you what programs are being broadcast today, at the moment, or next week and you can use it to choose your programming. It will also then, after that, go into the menus to show you it’s not just the electronic program guide. The basic features of the box will talk, too. You can change the type of tele you have connected. You can change the display to be high contrast, black on white or white on black. You can increase the size of the font of the display and so on. It’s great for low vision people but the box itself will talk all of the way through. I’ll run that video now.

Female Speaker: RNIB?supporting blind and partially sighted people.

Voice: 3, ITV1, …to watch…tonight from 18:00 to 18:30, subtitles. Press the “Where Am I” button for assistance.

Male Speaker: …Troll.

Voice: ITV evening news and weather from 18:30 to 19:00, 3, ITV1, subtitles.

Male Speaker: OK. Let’s try one more.

Voice: “Emma Dale” from 19:00 to 19:30, 3, ITV1, audio description, subtitles.

Male Speaker: OK. If we want to find out more information about this program “Emma Dale,” we can press the “info” button.

Voice: “Emma Dale” from 19:00 to 19:30. … when he finds out about Charlie. Unable to share her grief with Ashley…

Male Speaker: Then we can press the “menu” button to go into the menus.

Voice: Main menu. There are six options. Current option, 1, preferences. Press the “Where Am I” button for assistance. 2, favorites. 3, parental control. 4, reminders. 5, technical settings. 6, help.

Male Speaker: So we’d go into preferences by pressing “1.”

Voice: Preferences. There are five options. Current option…

Orme: I don’t think I need to show you any more than that. That shows a set-top box talking. This is a separate box at the moment but there is simply no reason why this technology could not be implemented within the television itself. This is using standard industry circuits with a regular TV equipment manufacturer who we’re partnering with.
The third project (because all good things come in threes) is that we also want to provide access to a really good personal video recorder. These are the hard disk recorders that mean that you can choose the program you want. You can maybe record a whole series, set it up to do that and navigate the programs that you’ve recorded, as well. Our expectation, then, of these three products is that they will all be available to blind and partially sighted people in the UK this year.
These are great developments in the UK but TV, of course, is all around the world. We do believe there are 1.5 billion TV sets in the world. That’s more than fixed-line telephones. The 2008 Olympics, which just happened in Beijing, attracted the largest television audience ever with 4 billion people tuning in. I think that’s 2/3rds of the world’s population. Countries are switching over to digital television very fast. The United States is switching this month. Many counties in Europe have switched already. In the UK, we’re doing it region by region. The process has begun and will finish in 2013.
This is a global issue. As we talk to television manufacturers, they tell us we don’t want different solutions in different places. This is very much the DAISY story. What they want is a single standard, a single set of user requirements that mean they’re not being asked to do different things in different countries. They don’t want to have to make different televisions for every different country. It won’t work. We as blindness organizations need to be clear what it is we require from them and we need to be clear about the standards that we expect them to adhere to.
The World Blind Union knows this is an important issue. In their strategic plan in priority one they state “promoting full participation and equal opportunities for blind and partially sighted persons in all aspects of social, economic, political and cultural life.” In 2008 in the World Blind Union General Assembly in Geneva they passed a resolution that calls on its members to work to make television programming and television systems accessible to blind and partially sighted people.

We need international collaboration. We need to share knowledge, which is why we’re here today to tell you about our work in the UK. Next month I’ll be in Washington talking with American colleagues, American manufacturers and American policymakers about this issue. We have worked across Europe, also. We’re also trying to partner with industry, too, and help them to understand the issues. As Hiroshi-san has mentioned, this week we have met with Sony and Panasonic. We have met with senior members of their staff. We have shown them the sorts of developments that I have shown you this afternoon and we have helped to address sometimes the mistake that is made that blind people do not want to watch television.
Both of those meetings with those companies were very positive. Whilst they may not do everything we want them to do, already these engineers are intrigued by the problems that this challenge poses them. They are beginning to think about, for example, how they may provide access to the sorts of data that is being produced by this digital satellite box that I showed you. Again, we could use an external box to give access to not just the basic functions but the electronic program guide and so on.
It’s important, though, as we’re talking to manufacturers that we have a unified message and we do not say different things to different manufacturers or different organizations are saying different things. It is well beyond RNIB’s responsibility and capability, of course, to know what is required in countries such as Japan, China, African states or anywhere else. We need to work together to produce a set of user requirements that are appropriate for everyone and we need to work with industry to develop the technical standards.
I finish, then, with a slide that says “That’s all, folks!” It’s been a long day for you to sit through all of this. I hope that this has been a useful presentation to show you the work that we’re doing in the UK on access to television and to show you that whilst the challenge of digital television is great because the navigation of the set is very difficult, the road ahead is bright, I believe, because we can show that there are solutions there for the taking. Thank you.

Chair (interpreted): Thank you very much, Richard. We still have some time left, so we would like to entertain some questions. On Kevin’s talk, too, we would like to receive some questions if you have any questions, those people who would like to ask questions. I would like to know how many people would like to ask questions. Would you please raise your hands, those people who have questions? Two? Thank you. Monthian first and then Minatani. First, Monthian.

Monthian: I’d just like to know when developing the accessible set-top box how does RNIB try to involve internationally recognized accessibility standards or simply involving ad hoc solution to your accessible set-top box development? That is the first question. The second one is how do you think DAISY could play an important role in the further development of an accessible set-top box in the future? Thank you very much.

Chair (interpreted): Richard, would you respond to these questions?

Orme: I would be happy to. In terms of setting out standards for what is really a new type of interface, we have borrowed both from the standards on which DAISY is based (like W3C) as far as possible and also done a great deal of work with blind and partially sighted people through evaluations. Some of the interface technology, for example, is similar to navigating on the web. There are menus there and you’re navigating a grid and so on. But in fact new standards are required for much of the interface. I think, though, in other technologies there is the possibility when you’re into things like television over the internet, IPTV. That is where other standards will come together. Standards like SMILE, for example, which is utilized by DAISY, also have a place within IPTV. Wherever possible because we know the lessons so well from DAISY we want to build this on top of existing standards rather than come up with ad hoc solutions.

Chair (interpreted): Thank you. Now Minatani-san.

Minatani (interpreted): My name is Minatani. I have one question and one request. First, I’ll ask the question. You showed us two prototype products. They are very highly perfected, I would say. I was very surprised. Not only RNIB’s capabilities but probably also other capabilities were needed to do so. Are there any bodies, organizations, companies or manufacturers you asked for partnership in doing this work? In other words, who and what sort of third-party support did you ask for? In relation to that, at RNIB how are you collecting information about the needs of the blind people? I’m sorry. I’m asking two questions, actually. Lastly is my request. Thank you for the video of Poirot. I like Sherlock Holmes created by Granada and I’d like you to show us sometime maybe in the future a clip of that film.

Orme: Very good. There were two questions there. That’s OK. You’re allowed two questions. One thing I didn’t say was I’ve shown some equipment here. At the end (because this is the last session, of course) if people want to come up and have a look at that equipment, you’re very welcome to. The first question was, “Who are the industry partners we have worked with?” Of course, we all know the brands and I’ve mentioned some of them this afternoon. We have tried to work with those brands (and many of them) over the last few years. But the TV that’s put together isn’t often the effort of a single company. There are lots of companies that work behind the scenes to produce things like the remote control. That’s a separate company. The television circuitry, that’s another company. The people who make the screen itself, that’s another company, and maybe the people who produce the software for it. What we did is we put a call out to industry to find those who would work with us and we selected from those. Our intention was to find partners who have other relationships. As I said, our intention is to step away from this. Other manufacturers then (or brands, rather) can take the developments we’ve made and produce talking products in the years to come. The companies that we’re working with probably are not immediately familiar to you but the products that they work on would be.

I think the second question was how we are involving blind and partially sighted people in our developments. RNIB is a membership organization and we’re guided by blind and partially sighted people through our government structures, through our assembly and board. We also have members who have expressed a particular interest in working on this. I told you about the 9 year old boy who is trying this system out. There are many other people who are doing that, also. In our tests developing the interface that I demonstrated that had the grid system, the electronic program guide, there simply wasn’t another example to go out and look at. We developed the prototype and then tried it out with groups of many individuals, actually, who are blind, who are partially sighted and people who are older and may not consider themselves to be blind or partially sighted but simply can’t see as well as they used to. We tried it with lots of individuals and, as I say, focused not just on the voice but on the display and on the remote control, too. In the end, of course, the market will tell us whether we got it right.

I’m going to take the opportunity to slip something in here. We talked about DVDs. Just as with digital TV, it’s all very well and good having an audio description track but if you can’t find the different bits of the DVD you want to use that’s no good, either. We have worked on a menu system for DVDs. I don’t know if you have these in Japan but if you buy a DVD now from the BBC (a regular DVD from a regular DVD shop and use it in a regular DVD player) the first thing that the DVD will do is announce what disk it is. I bough just before I came here “Jane Eyre,” a recent production. It has two disks in it. If you can’t see, you don’t know which disk is which. It will tell you which disk it is as soon as you put the DVD in. It will then play some logo music and then it will say, “For audio navigation, press select.” That’s one of the buttons on the remote. If you press that, you get a nice, big, clear menu there and the menu talks. So the DVD menus are accessible, too. That’s me being a bit naughty and slipping in something I forgot to say in my presentation. But there, I’ve done it now and Hiroshi didn’t stop me.

Chair (interpreted): Thank you very much. Can we ask Kevin to try to wrap up this session? Could you come up to the stage once again?

Orme: As Kevin is coming up here, we started with some sound clips from movies that we would all remember. My slide said, “That’s all, folks!” but for those who cannot see, I did an audio version, too.


Porky Pig: That’s all, folks!


Carey: I’m sure we’re all very impressed with Richard. Of course I’m biased, being the vice chair of RNIB, but I think what he said is very impressive. There are six major actors to make access to television possible. There is government. There are regulators. There are broadcasters. There are standard-setters. There are the people who design the systems (television manufacturers). But the sixth element is the most important. This will not happen unless blind people themselves make a demand for it and make a coherent demand that is concerted. If different organizations in the same country do not all agree or are not all behind the campaign, it won’t work.
International capitalism has never been disposed to be generous. Every time we have been anywhere to ask for anything we are told about the business case and the bottom line. The only reason that access to television has become a reality for us in the United Kingdom is that blind people and the RNIB got behind a concerted campaign to do it. Although the technology is very wonderful, it is the will of the people that will make this happen. Television is a wonderful example, along with the work that is being done by DAISY, to show what concerted action can produce. We are going to need a lot more of it in other media fields to make sure that our disadvantage as blind people is as small as possible. Let us make television the next great example of how we can become more integrated in society and more able to contribute to its well-being. Thank you.

Chair (interpreted): Thank you, Kevin and Richard. With this, we would like to say that we now have a much greater, expanded area of work that we have to continue to work on. Thank you very much, again, Richard and Kevin.