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[IP] Of interest for visually impaired

I received this from another list and thought since there are so many
visually-impaired members on IP, I'd share it:


Video description: Facts and Future.

What is video description?

      Video description is the use of narration during
natural pauses in dialog to let a person not able to see the
screen know what is happening.  If there is music playing,
for example, and the bad guy leaves an envelope in an
obvious hiding place and then shows up at a meeting of the
National Security Council8  a visually impaired viewer would
not catch it and lose a major piece of the plot.

Where is video description used or available?

      Public television has been using increasing amounts of
video description since the mid 1980s.  In addition, Turner
Classic Movies has a regular Sunday evening presentation of
time honored movies that are video described.  Other
examples include some movies produced with a video
description track such as Titanic.

Does the narration interfere with the ability of others to
enjoy the movie or TV programming?

      On television, the narration comes over a secondary
audio programming channel which is normally off unless
switched on for persons wanting it.  In movie theaters, a
visually impaired person can use a special radio receiver
with earphones to listen to the narration.

Is this available on all television presentations and

      The Federal Communications Commission has recently
required that the major networks and cable channels present
at least four hours of described programming per week
starting in April of 2002.  Movies are gradually becoming
more described with studios such as Sony, Buena Vista,
Universal  Paramount, and Miramax taking a leadership role.

Is there a problem?

      Yes.  The National Association of Broadcasters, joined
by the National Cable TV Association and the Motion Picture
Association of America, have brought a legal action to
challenge the right of the FCC to order such programming.
This litigation is aided by a second law suit from the
National Federation of the Blind equally challenging the FCC

Why are these people fighting the FCC and video description?

      The National Association of Broadcasters and the two
other trade associations are not known to be supportive of
change and have thus far offered arguments such as; 1)
insufficient market to justify the minor expenses of video
description, 2) the FCC went beyond its authority, and 3)
describing artistic works compels speech and hence violates
the Constitution  and so forth.  In addition and sadly, the
National Federation of the Blind has also entered a suit
arguing amongst other things that the FCC was arbitrary and
capricious in its promulgation of the rule.

Are there supporters of the service?

      The American Council of the Blind has been trying to
get video description for over 15 years on the basis that it
affords blind people with the same access to information on
television that viewers take for granted.  Other groups and
advocates for the blind such as the American Foundation for
the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, the Washington
Ear, The National Center for Accessible Media, and Narrative
Television Network, have also supported the service for much
the same reason.  The FCC order only came after the industry
basically ignored the issue for those 15 years.

What are the chances that video description will survive the
court challenge?

      While there are strong and convincing legal arguments
which we believe will be successfully made in defense of the
FCC action, the industry must also hear from the court of
public opinion to truly understand the errors they have

How does this affect me?

      Consider yourself and your family.  Should anyone lose
vision to the point where they need to have television and
movie events described, would this not be best accomplished
by a professional service that comes with the program?
There is not always someone else around to describe what is
happening visually.  Especially at movie theaters, the rest
of the audience does not need to hear someone describing the
visual action.  Also consider that vision loss is a common
occurrence with aging and video description is a way to
guarantee that those who encounter vision loss will not be
left out of the ability to enjoy television and movies in
much the same way they always did.

What can I do about this?

      You can contact your local television stations and tell
their general managers that you don't think they should have
the National Association of Broadcasters fight video
description.  You can call your local movie theater owner
and let them know you think they should have the video
description equipment, which goes for about $2,000, in their
theater and that they should let the Motion Picture
Association know they should drop their objections to this
important service.  You can write to your local newspaper
and let the rest of your community know about this service
and how it is threatened by industry associations that have
shown negative interest in doing it even though they know
its value.  You can go on the web and send email to the
industry associations and your Congressional Representatives
and Senators to let them know of your support of video
description.  You can write to those who do commercials on
television and suggest to them that they should be telling
broadcasters that they expect this service in the programs
they sponsor.  You can ask your churches, social clubs and
fraternal organizations such as Lions Clubs to communicate
to the broadcasters and movie producers as well.

Who should I contact about description for television?

      You can contact:

The National Association of Broadcasters
1771 N Street Nw
Washington, DC 20036
Fax (202)-775-3520
E-mail: email @ redacted

National Cable Television Association
1724 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036
Fax (202)-775-1055
E-mail: email @ redacted

Jack Valenti, President and CEO
Motion Picture Association of America
1600 Eye Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
Fax (202)-293-1299
Web site: WWW.MPAA.org

(California address of MPAA)
Motion Picture Association of America
15503 Ventura Blvd
Encino, Ca 91436

(To contact regarding access to movie theaters)
John Fithian, President
National Association of Theater Owners
4605 Lankershim Blvd Suite 340
North Hollywood, Ca 91602
Fax (818)-506-0269
E-mail: email @ redacted
Web site: WWW.Hollywood.com/NATO
   Note you can talk with the MPAA about theater access as

Where can I get ongoing information about this issue?

      You can visit the web site of the American Council of
the Blind at www.acb.org or call us at area code (202)467-
5081 to get the latest information.

Will all of this work?

      Yes, but we need your help.

* ACB-L is maintained and brought to you as a service      *
* of the American Council of the Blind.                    *
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