E-standards media player wins accessibility award

2014 captioning awards

The E-standards Accessible HTML5 Media Player has won a Deafness Forum of Australia Captioning Award under the category of Online Captioning and Digital Innovation. The award was presented by Natalie Collins of Media Access Australia and accepted by Bronwyn Lapham of eWorks at the Deafness Forum of Australia awards ceremony in Sydney on 31 October.

About the awards

The captioning awards encourage better quality, frequency and wider use of captions. Captioning is the text version of speech and other sounds on, for example:

  • television
  • DVD
  • Internet video
  • cinemas and theatres
  • public places, like museums.

Captions make entertainment and other information available to people who are hearing impaired or Deaf by showing dialogue and descriptions of other sound as text overlaid on video or audio. Educators see further benefits from students being able to read the written word as well as hearing it.

About the media player

Fundamentally, the development and provision of the accessible media player means that web-based video can be made accessible to hearing impaired, low vision and compromised mobility audiences at no extra cost. The media player grew out of a National Vocational Education and Training (VET) E-learning Strategy funded Emerging Technology Trial. Sean Norrey of Kangan Institute tendered for funding to define a way of adding closed captions to web-based video. The aim was to make that process easy so that VET practitioners could conform to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines V2.0, as recommended in the E-standards for Training, one of the national initiatives managed by eWorks.

The results showed that additional funding was merited to add to the player’s functions, which have been enhanced to include the following features:

  • The person viewing the video has control of the colour and size of captions displayed; both foreground and background colour, and background transparency
  • All functions can be controlled using a keyboard
  • There is support for a timed MP3 file to provide audio description
  • The ability to stream YouTube, so there is no need to host video
  • The ability for the viewer to choose between different closed caption files if the publisher has provided options. This supports alternative languages.
  • The ability to customise the video player interface art—the controls—to fit with an existing website design
  • If the viewer chooses to print the page, a transcript is generated from the caption file. The transcript can have still images positioned at time points defined by the publisher.

The player is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia license. This means it is free for anyone to use as long as the original author and the funding is identified, and if changes are made the player must be published under the same license.

The player is undergoing final testing, but can be viewed on the staging page, and will be available for download on GitHub when testing is complete.

eWorks and E-standards for Training congratulates all of the finalists and winners of the Captioning Awards. We would also like to thank the Deafness Forum of Australia for hosting this important event and Media Access Australia for their nomination.

Accessible video player nominated for captioning award

Hot on the heels of the E-learning Industry Awards comes another prestigious award nomination for eWorks. Natalie Collins, Deputy Chief Executive of Media Access Australia, has nominated eWorks and the E-standards Accessible HTML5 Video Player for a Deafness Forum of Australia Captioning Award.

What are the Deafness Forum Captioning Awards?

2014 Captioning Awards logo

As the name suggests, the Captioning Awards are annual awards for excellence in captioning. The awards encourage better quality, greater frequency and wider use of captions on television, in cinemas, DVDs, theatres, museums, live events, in schools and in public places, including—of course—the Internet. eWorks, as manager of the E-standards for Training, has been nominated under the category of Online Captioning and Digital Innovation.

What is captioning? Why bother?

Captioning is the textual representation of speech and other sounds provided on television and other video screens, including computers. People who are hearing impaired or Deaf need them so that they can access the media, and also receive information such as safety or emergency announcements. Children and students also benefit from seeing the written word as well as hearing it. Oh, and Internet video suddenly becomes discoverable by search engines.

Aren’t all video players accessible?

Unfortunately, no. There is a reason why the market isn’t flooded with fully-accessible video players. Their production requires a lot of research and time to develop and to incorporate accessibility into the technology. Those that exist to date are proprietary, expensive, or difficult to set up. Features of the E-Standards Accessible HTML 5 Video Player include:

  • End user control of the colour and size of captions displayed; both foreground and background colour, including background transparency,
  • All functionality can be controlled using a keyboard,
  • Support for a timed MP3 file to provide audio description,
  • Provision for older web browsers with an accessible Flash object,
  • The ability to stream YouTube, so there is no need to host video,
  • The ability for the end user to choose between different closed caption files if the publisher has provided options (supporting alternative languages),
  • The ability to customise the video player interface art—the controls—to fit with existing website design
  • If the end user chooses to print the page, a transcript is generated from the caption file. The transcript can have still images interspersed at designated time points defined by the publisher.

How did the accessible video player come about?

The project started as an “Emerging Technology Trial” supported by funding from the National VET E‑learning Strategy, and was the brainchild of Sean Norrey at Kangan Institute. The aim was to address the lack of an accessible video player that could be used on the platforms recommended in the E‑standards for Training, which are a set of national technical standards designed to support interoperable e‑learning content and systems in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. Subsequently, additional funding was allocated to bring the player to its current iteration.

What’s the big deal?

Fundamentally, the development and provision of the E-Standards Accessible HTML5 Video Player means that web-based video can be made accessible to hearing impaired, low vision and compromised mobility audiences at no extra cost. It is available for anyone to use under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License. The video player has been reviewed very positively by a number of web accessibility experts.

Well done, eWorks

eWorks is one of Australia’s leading e-learning development, delivery and consultancy organisations, and manages the E-standards for Training for the Department of Industry. The 2014 Captioning Awards winners will be announced at a glittering dinner at Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park hotel, Friday 31 October. Fingers and toes crossed for eWorks!