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As Easy As Turning On The TV

2012 July 30

By Jim Allsup

I enjoy a good television show. They can be fun, entertaining and informative. I remember when the dial only went up to about 20 channels, and now nobody sneezes at the hundreds of TV stations now available.

And it can still bring families together for a popular, ratings-grabbing season finale; good summertime ballgame—and what about those 2012 Summer Olympics?

I would imagine some people can’t imagine their lives without a TV. But many people in this country—such as those who are blind and visually impaired—can’t enjoy the full experience.

You may be aware close-captioning is becoming more common. It’s even automated on many newer TVs and with programming for audiences who can’t hear. The Federal Communications Commission also is making changes to improve TV options for those who cannot see. On July 1, the FCC introduced video description services inNorth America.

Video description is audio-narrated explanations of what’s happening on the TV screen. The descriptions are inserted into natural pauses during the show.

The FCC now requires the station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC to provide four hours of video description a week to prime time and children’s programming. The top five non-broadcast networks of Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT and USA also must provide four hours of video-described television a week.

You can access the service through the “secondary audio” feature on your remote, often identified as “SAP.” These features are important, not just for entertainment, but also for emergency communications, tornado warnings and other breaking news.

Changes like these are monumental for those with visual impairments—it’s an important benefit, yes. But we also need to see that these types of modifications and adaptations for people with disabilities are becoming more mainstream.

Once it’s common, then it’s no longer exceptional to accommodate people with disabilities—it’s accepted.

Are there modifications you’d like to see made for people with disabilities? Share them in the Allsup Place Forum.

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