Roughly 360 million people worldwide are affected by significant hearing loss. Without the help of sign language or written text, they are unable to understand spoken language.
Their full participation in the society around them depends on complete access to spoken communication.
This paper examines the current state of captioning on television, the internet and live events and presents different approaches and solutions currently available to media companies and businesses for delivering their spoken communication via video or live text.
In addition to the systems currently available, the paper also offers a look ahead to solutions – such as automatic and semi-automatic speech recognition – which are currently being developed to improve the working conditions of speech to text reporters and interpreters as well as broadcasters in the near future.
Another aspect is the chance to employ interpreters who have sensory impairments themselves and thus foster a society providing inclusion in multiple ways through technology.
Live content gathers the highest audience share on TV today – since pre-produced content can already be viewed on demand.
Live sports, political events, and popular shows like the Eurovision Song Contest, Royal Weddings, the UEFA cup, the Oscars, the World Cup and the Olympics are live – and hardly accessible for people with hearing impairments.
Access services cannot be customized by the individual user although the needs of the audience vary a lot. Also, broadcasters increasingly offer their live programs via IP-streaming in addition to TV broadcast (in a 24/7 fashion, specifically also for live events e.g. Olympic Games).
Support for accessibility of media using this means of distribution is, however, still lacking sufficient solutions.
There are currently approx. 15 million people living in Germany who suffer from some form of hearing loss.
Just fewer than one million of these people are so limited in their hearing capacity that they require visual aid in order to understand spoken content.
Hard of hearing people need unlimited access to spoken content in order to fully participate in the society around them.
A recent regulation enacted by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs requires all websites and online services to be free of communication barriers.
For the time being, this requirement only applies to the domain of German federal administrative agencies, but an extension of its applicability appears likely – since the German Association of the Deaf (Deutscher Gehörlosenbund, DGB) has, among other measures, called for the creation of a legal basis for the immediate implementation of full captioning in all television programming presented by the entire spectrum of publicly and privately owned television networks.
This DGB request is also aimed at all forms of online media.
To accommodate the demands of both the government and associations representing the interests of the deaf and hard of hearing, innovative and cost-effective solutions are necessary in order to remove barriers to spoken communication on television and the internet.
This includes solutions for (live) captioning and for visualizing content through sign language.
BACKGROUND – A GROWING DEMAND THROUGHOUT EUROPE
According to a report by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), access service provisions are regulated at the national or even regional level.
Regulation varies widely from country to country. In several countries, laws are being reinforced to protect disabled people from discrimination.
Although disability organisations are lobbying for change, there is currently no Europe-wide regulation on the provision of access services.
The EU Audiovisual Media Service Directive (AVMSD) leaves legislation to each EU country to implement.
The spirit seems to be that the market should decide what services to provide.
This means that access service reception equipment is not widely available, because the potential individual markets may be regarded as too small by manufacturers, and standards are not mandated.