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AbleTV Provides Captioned Event Videos

AbleTV Provides Captioned Event Videos

There’s a new service on the Internet called AbleTV. It was established by a Maryland couple named Jeff and Suzanne Pledger, and it’s goal is to provide accessible information to people with disabilities. Using the concept of television over the Internet, AbleTV provides captioned webcasts of newsworthy events. Webcasts are live streaming video, delivered by technologies such as Real Video Player. This technology has been around for several years. What is new about AbleTV is the concept of adding captions to coverage of newsworthy events.

The first coverage provided by AbleTV was of the Democratic National Convention. I don’t know if the entire convention is available, but there appears to be way more videos there than I want to watch <g>).

The quality of the video and captioning is not great. Having only a dialup modem that normally connects at about 33kb/second, I didn’t expect the video to be very good, and it wasn’t. It was good enough to get a reasonable image of the speaker, but a scene shift usually resulted in several seconds of unclear image before it sharpened up again.

Perhaps more troubling is the quality of the captioning. I don’t mean that the wrong words were presented, as we see so often on television captioning. From what I was able to see, the transcription of speech to text appeared to be pretty good. The problem was that the video image, and therefore the captioning, was quite small. It was just plain hard to read! Also, the first video in the list (Welcome and Opener) had a captioning problem; the captions came up, but never changed! The other webcasts I looked at were ok in this regard.

So it’s far from perfect. Still, there are a couple of advantages to this system that make it promising. First, of course, is just the fact that it is captioned, and therefore accessible to people with hearing loss.

Another advantage is that it is on the Internet and available whenever you want to see it. If you missed part of the convention, you can go back now and watch the parts you missed. If this technology becomes widespread, it may be possible to see captioned webcasts of almost any event at any time.

A third advantage is that it is universally accessible. You may be traveling out of the country, or you may be interested in what’s going on in some other country. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to view something of interest on live television, the webcast version will be available. With a computer and internet access, you can view the webcast from anywhere in the world.

Finally, captioning can be provided in multiple languages. For people who are more comfortable in a language other than English, the captioning for some programs may be provided in other languages. Also, events from other countries may be captioned in English as well as the native language of the country.

AbleTV envisions obtaining funding from advertising on the site, sponsorship of the site by companies and associations, and even Pay Per View-type subscriptions where users might have to pay a small fee to watch a program. Microsoft was a charter sponsor that gave AbleTV the seed money to get the site up and running. Verizon Communications, Sun Microsystems and iCan.com are some of the company’s advertisers.

For additional information, please see the AbleTV Listing in ourResources Directory.

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