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AOL Announces Captioning for Streaming Media

AOL Announces Captioning for Streaming Media

Editor: Just last week we published an article about captioning on the Internet, and we pointed out that there is far too little of it, despite the relative ease with which it can be included. Now, we see a press release from AOL announcing that they will be captioning some of their streaming media. Hopefully other content providers will follow suit.

Here are portions of the press release.


Captioning Will Provide Members Who Are Deaf Or Hard-of-Hearing With Enhanced Access To Select Video Content Including Entertainment Programming, News Updates And AOL, Member Education Tutorials

Initiative Marks First Time An Internet Service Provider Will Offer Captioning And Extends Company’s Commitment To Serving Members With Disabilities

Dulles, VA, October 09, 2003 – America Online, the world’s leading online services provider, today announced the availability of closed captions on the service for select multimedia content that will enhance the online experience for members who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This initiative will mark the first time an Internet service provider will feature captioned content online, underscoring AOL’s commitment to accessibility and ease-of-use. AOL will debut captions for AOL, Member Education Tutorials and “Princess Natasha,” an original cartoon series created exclusively for the KOL’ service, the first version of the AOL, service designed entirely for kids aged 6-12. AOL, for Broadband will also roll out captioned CNN news content later this fall. The online captions will be available to AOL members through AOL 9.0, Optimized, the newest version of the AOL client software.

The launch of AOL’s captioning represents the first step towards realizing the goals of a two-year research and development project between AOL and WGBH Media Access Group, the pioneering organization behind the development of captioning for television broadcasts. The continuing joint project aims to foster the development of technical strategies for enabling the display of closed captions in a range of digital media formats. In addition to collaborating with WGBH, AOL has also been guided by input from leaders of renowned consumer organizations in the Deaf community and the Hard-of-Hearing community, including Telecommunications for the Deaf Inc., the National Association of the Deaf and The League for The Hard of Hearing. The launch is a significant milestone for both AOL and for the Deaf community, whose leaders have been advocating for online captioning similar to ongoing advocacy efforts for captions on television programming.

“Online captioning is a central accessibility issue for the Deaf community and Hard-of-Hearing community and we are excited to be at the forefront of the movement,” said Tom Wlodkowski, Director of Accessibility, America Online. “Key to our progress has been our collaboration with WGBH and support from content partners such as CNN and Animation Collective, the producers of ‘Princess Natasha.’ We look forward to working with additional content providers to expand the availability of captioned multimedia on the service.”


“This is a tremendous development in Internet accessibility for people with hearing disabilities,” said Claude Stout, Executive Director of Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. “AOL is to be commended for this voluntary program to provide us access on the Internet. TDI strongly encourages others on the Internet and in the media industry to follow suit by providing accessible content via captions and other tools to people with disabilities. In doing so, all Americans can experience full access.”


Similar to closed captioning for television, AOL captions are displayed directly beneath the video clip and correspond to the audio content. Activating the captions is easy and convenient. Members simply click on the CC button, which appears near the video.

AOL’s captioning initiative is an extension of AOL’s Accessibility Policy, a company wide priority that aims to address and meet the technology needs of people with disabilities. More information on AOL’s accessibility efforts is available at http://www.aol.com/accessibility.