Radio For The Deaf?

Mr Radio

The BBC features it about three quarters of the way down the page on its “Best Gadgets of CES 2008,” article. Product of a consortium composed of National Public Radio, Towson University, and Harris Corporation, Radio for the Deaf features a screen which displays closed caption-style text of the program being “listened” to. (There is a demonstration video on the BBC page referenced above.)

PC Magazine shares a glimpse of what radio for the deaf can mean for the hard-of-hearing in its latest article by Bill Howard.

What’s in it for deaf people? Cheryl Heppner, executive director of the North Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, who lost her hearing at 6, recalls driving with her husband, Fred, and wondering what made him laugh listening to the radio. With real time closed captions, she said, “I could know why … Fred is always laughing so uproariously when he listens to Car Talk while driving.” Or, she says, “I could annoy him by singing along, badly, to the lyrics of his favorite songs. I can’t wait!”

Howard also touches on a matter of concern to everyone involved in content delivery: copyright. Fortunately, if he is correct, this should be a process relatively free of conflict:

To get closed captioning, individual users with hearing impairments would have to sign up and get an unlock code sent to their radios. Congress granted a conditional access exemption from most copyright laws for the deaf, so they aren’t in violation for receiving copyrighted material in a usable format. But they’d have to register their radios so they could be activated to receive text caption material. NPR doesn’t see a copyright problem at its end except for issues such as whether a folksinger’s lyrics could be sent.

Towsen University of Maryland, one of the partners in this consortium, will be headquarters to the new International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART). Their plan includes both home units and mobile ones for vehicles. Table top units are expected as early as this fall from Radiosophy and mobile units will follow.

Image courtesy of furibond, used under this creative commons license


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