Smart solutions to make TV programming more accessible

ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities is ITU priority

ITU on TV ACCESIBILITYThe International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in partnership with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the European Commission held a workshop on 18 March, 2015  in Barcelona, Spain on Smart Accessibility on Connected TV. The discussions laid the groundwork for an exchange of good practices on the enabling environment and technical solutions to make television and video programming more accessible for persons with disabilities in the converging ICT ecosystem.

The workshop was organized within the framework of the ITU European Regional Initiative on “Ensuring access to telecommunications/ICTs, in particular for persons with disabilities”, a key area of focus adopted by the 2014 ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference.

“Despite the increasing deployment of telecommunication/ICT networks, equipment and applications, persons with disabilities continue to face enormous barriers in using ICTs,” noted Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “Governments, regulators, technical experts and academic institutions must work together to identify innovative concrete solutions to ensure persons with disabilities can enjoy television, once programming is made more accessible by including solutions such as closed captions and audio description and making users aware of these solutions on electronic programming guides.”

Mr Sanou said he was delighted to see that the Regional Initiative for Europe on ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities has achieved its first results. “I invite all stakeholders to respond to our call for contributions to the Regional Initiative for Europe on ensuring access to telecommunication/ICTs, in particular for persons with disabilities,” he added. “I also invite stakeholders to join us at the European Regional Development Forum, which will be held from 20 to 22 April 2015 in Bucharest, Romania.”

Mr Harald Trettenbrein, Deputy Head of Unit, Converging Media and Content at the European Commission stressed that accessibility has been rapidly becoming an important issue among Members of the European Union. “Enhanced cooperation amongst all stakeholders on this subject should be further encouraged in order to create necessary incentives to making smart accessibility on connected TV available to all across Europe,” Mr Trettenbrein said.

Ms Pilar Orero, Head of Research at CAIAC Research Centre and Director of the European Graduate Studies in Audio-visual Translation at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, stressed that the path to audio-visual media accessibility for persons with disabilities is transforming challenges into opportunities. “Accessibility will not only lead to greater socio-economic inclusion of persons with disabilities but it is also a path to innovation and job creation,” Ms Orero said.

The workshop provided a forum for the exchange of best practices in the field of television/video  programming access services, including a discussion of the national frameworks of Finland, France, Romania and Spain as well as the European Union, and highlighted recommendations of the ITU Model ICT Accessibility Policy Report. Practical solutions for content developers and broadcasters in providing  access services for persons with disabilities were also discussed.

The migration from analogue to digital TV as well as the process of convergence in the world of ICTs represents an ideal opportunity for ITU members to take the necessary steps to ensure that TV becomes more accessible.

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