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NPR launches effort to make radio fully accessible

January 11, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Press Release

Source: Harris Corporation

NPR, Harris Corporation and Towson University Launch Global Effort To Make
Radio Accessible to Hearing and Sight Impaired

Tuesday January 8, 12:00 pm ET

First Over-The-Air Transmission From Special CES Station

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — (LVCC S227) — NPR, Harris
Corporation and Towson University today announced a new initiative to make
radio more accessible to the hundreds of millions of hearing and visually
impaired people around the world.
At a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the
three organizations announced the global accessible radio technology
and provided the first live demonstration of the accessible radio
technology. The group also announced a new research center for developing
future technologies
on the campus of Towson University near Baltimore, MD. Additional plans call
for the establishment of an international consortium of equipment
manufacturers, broadcasters and other organizations to help foster broad
adoption of the initiative.
The initiative will be spearheaded by the three founding organizations and
will leverage cutting-edge HD Radio(TM) technology to enable
hearing-impaired people to "see" live radio content on specially equipped
receivers by applying television closed-captioning processes to radio
broadcasts. The technology also will provide audio cues and voice prompts,
as well as advanced radio reading services, for those visually impaired and
"Digital radio technology makes it possible — for the first time — to
serve the sensory impaired," says Mike Starling, vice president and chief
technology officer of NPR. "Beyond developing the technology, this
initiative will ensure the accessibility of these radio services at minimal
During the press conference, the organizations showcased the first
over-the-air transmission of the accessible radio technology using a signal
from WX3NPR, a special temporary station authorized by the FCC for the live
Attendees at the press conference watched the text transcript of the NPR
flagship morning news magazine "Morning Edition" on the HD Radio receiver's
viewing screen, which is what a hearing-impaired listener will see using the
Additionally, the demonstration carried a digital radio reading service that
will assist the visually impaired with daily readings of current books,
newspapers and magazines.
Following the demonstration, the participating organizations unveiled
details for the International Center for Accessible Radio Technology
(ICART), which will be headquartered at Towson University in Towson, MD.
Towson will house the primary administrative and academic research office
for the initiative, with NPR Labs in Washington, DC, providing technology
R&D and software development, and Harris Corporation supplying transmission
and research support at its radio broadcast technology center in Cincinnati,
Members of the global initiative went on to detail plans to further study
and understand the challenges faced by the sensory-impaired population in
accessing radio broadcasts, and develop methodologies to address those
issues through cutting-edge technologies. To ensure that the effort
represents the widest range of participants and fosters the broadest
possible adoption, organizers said they will work to bring together
policymakers, broadcasters, transmission equipment companies and receiver
manufacturers from around the world.
Presently, the initiative has more than a dozen members, representing
virtually every aspect of the "microphone to loudspeaker" chain:
broadcasters, network content providers, infrastructure and transmission
equipment companies, and receiver manufacturers. In addition to founding
members NPR, Harris and Towson University, supporting organizations include
iBiquity Digital Corporation, elphi, NDS, Radiosophy, Helen Keller
Institute, Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media
at WGBH(NCAM), Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of
Hearing Persons, and the G3ict, an Advocacy Initiative of the United Nations
Global Alliance for ICT and Development.
NPR, Harris and Towson will jointly determine strategic direction of the
organization, with assistance from the initiative's full membership. NPR
will provide much of the content, Harris will provide much of the
transmission- related technologies, and Towson will provide research into
the needs of the sensory-disabled population and will house the primary
ICART facility on its campus.
"We're working very closely with radio stations around the world to ensure
they have the right technical infrastructure in place for this initiative,"
said Howard Lance, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Harris
Corporation. "The new HD Radio transmission systems we're installing are
tailor-made for this effort, as their digital capabilities will make it
relatively easy for stations to transmit live textual transcripts to HD
Radio receivers."
"There is tremendous need for accessible radio for sensory-impaired people,
including the deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind, visually impaired, print
impaired, deaf/blind, and mobility impaired," said Dr. Ellyn Sheffield,
assistant professor of psychology at Towson and co-director of ICART. "There
is no question this initiative will have a profound impact on the quality of
millions of people's lives. Finally, sensory-disabled individuals will have
access to all radio programming, as well as radio emergency alerts and vital
recovery information."
HD Radio enables station operators to split their broadcasts up into
multiple channels, providing several CD-quality channels for their
audiences. Through this accessible radio initiative, a small amount of the
total data capacity will be used to carry textual data that will be shown
live on a screen on new versions of HD Radio receivers, essentially
providing a closed- captioning transcript of live broadcasts for the deaf.
Initially, the closed-captioning text will be created by live,
court-reporting-type captioners at individual stations and networks.
Ultimately, the initiative is hoping to leverage advanced speech-to-text
translation software applications that one day allow expansion of captioning
across the radio dial. Specially equipped HD Radioreceivers are in
development with several features to provide the visually impaired audience
with better access to broadcasts, such as audio prompts that notify which
direction the tuner is going, what channel the radio is on, and larger,
easier-to-read text on the radios.
More than 1,500 radio stations are currently broadcasting in HD Radio in the
United States. Over half of the CPB-qualified stations have been awarded HD
Radio conversion grants by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
According to current estimates, by 2010, all 825 public radio stations
should be broadcasting digitally.
More information on the initiative can be found at

Categories: Uncategorized

Make the Relationship Connection on ACB Radio Mainstream

January 9, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
We are pleased to announce a brand new show coming to ACB Radio Mainstream. “The Relationship Connection” will first air on Saturdays at 02:00 UTC, that’s Friday evening at 9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific and every four hours throughout that broadcast day.  Below is a message from the show’s host, Debbie Hazelton telling you more about this brand new show.
So much of the time we assume that the word relationship refers to an intimate or romantic kind.  But what about all relationships that impact our ability to make effective choices regarding intimacy and close relationships?
In this two hour show, we will discuss numerous aspects of the things that contribute to and deplete from all types of relationships, and how we can make choices that benefit the relationship connection we have from within ourselves to include everyone, near and far.
This will be an interactive two hour show, with some guest speakers and the ability to call, email  and participate live.
Categories: Uncategorized

Coming up on Main Menu for the week of January 9

January 6, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
We hope everyone spent a wonderful holiday season with family and friends and wish all of you a prosperous new year here in 2008. Main Menu and Main Menu Live return this week with brand new content.
In the first hour of Main Menu, Darcy and Holly demonstrate accessible audio production on the Apple Macintosh platform. In the second hour of Main Menu Live, Darcy and Holly join us to discuss further the accessibility of audio production and many other applications on the Mac.
Here is how to participate in the show:
The number to call into the show is 866-400-5333.
You may email your questions to:
You may also interact with the show via MSN (Windows Live) Messenger. The MSN Messenger ID to add is:

Would you like to interact with a group of Main Menu listeners about the topics heard on Main Menu and Main Menu Live? You can do this by joining the Main Menu Friends email list. The address to subscribe is:

Come join an already lively group of users.
Would you like to subscribe to podcast feeds for Main Menu and Main Menu Live? The RSS feeds to add to your podcatching application are:
Main Menu -
Main Menu Live -
Main Menu can be heard on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, and at 1 universal (GMT) on Wednesday mornings on the ACB Radio Main Stream channel.
Follow this link to listen to the show:
Jeff Bishop and Darrell Shandrow
The Main Menu Production Team
Categories: Uncategorized

Happy New Year as We Celebrate the Third Anniversary of Blind Access Journal

January 1, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

On Friday, December 17, 2004, we began Blind Access Journal as a vehicle for accessibility evangelism. Though the first article was a subdued piece covering an accessible wireless security software program, the second article covered accessibility related concerns with the UPS shipping company. From those modest beginnings, we have directly advocated for improved access to technology and transportation, raised awareness of the need for accessibility, stirred up the blind community through vigorous discussion of critical topics and written numerous thought provoking articles on accessibility, blindness and human rights of people with all disabilities. As 2007 has now come to an end, and we have now embarked on a brand new year, we thought it would be interesting to review a sampling of our accomplishments and other memorable moments over the past three years:

  • December 2004 – We began our ongoing campaign for accessible CAPTCHA (visual verification) and multifactor authentication schemes with the article entitled Google’s Inaccessible Account Creation Process highlighting the company’s use of a scheme for protecting web based resources that inherently blocks access for blind people by requiring the use of eye sight without nonvisual alternatives.
  • February 2005 – Published the article entitled Securing Our Future In An Uncertain Brave New World, which spurred some thought provoking discussion in the online blind community.
  • February 2005 – We began our brief advocacy on behalf of Terry Schiavo, a minimally conscious Florida woman who was deliberately removed from her life-saving feeding tube by her husband, resulting in her death, despite the wishes of the rest of her family to keep her alive. Bioethicists like Dr. Peter Singer must be delighted. We are concerned that concepts such as “quality of life” and “undue burden” may, one day in the distant future, could place our very right to exist as people with disabilities in serious jeopardy.
  • April 1, 2005 – Darrell proposes marriage to Karen, she accepts and they are engaged on Jeff Bishop’s The Desert Skies radio show on ACB Radio Interactive. It is possible to download an archive of this special event.
  • June 2005 – Blind Access Journal officially joins the podcasting scene.
  • October 2005 – First significant use of the “No Blind People Allowed Sign” as a means to insist on accessible alternatives to CAPTCHA (visual verification) schemes on web sites.
  • November 2005 – Darrell attends the first Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference in Ontario, California; makes new friends and further raises awareness of the need for accessibility.
  • November 2005 – Darrell appears live on Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech podcast live from the expo. TWiT is heard by hundreds of thousands of technology oriented listeners around the world.
  • November 2005 – Adam Curry publicly pledges in front of a worldwide audience to ensure that the products and services offered by Podshow are accessible; claims accessibility is part of the company’s “core DNA”. We had this nice chat at the podcasting expo. Unfortunately, Mr. Curry has never followed through on any of his promises!
  • November 2005 – A reporter publishes the article Journalist Advocates Better Online Access For Blind shortly after my appearance at the podcasting expo.
  • November 2005 – America Online adds audio playback to its CAPTCHA for the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) signup process.
  • January 12, 2006 – We initiated the Google Word Verification Accessibility Petition asking that the mission statement to “do no evil” be followed and all the company’s CAPTCHAs be promptly made more accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The petition garners 4,725 signatures and receives widespread coverage on blogs and podcasts as well as several mainstream technology media outlets.
  • January 2006 – PRWeb makes their visual verification scheme accessible in less than one week of the request! We thank Al Castle, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, for his amazing communication and responsiveness.
  • February 2006 – Darrell almost loses his job due to the conversion of his team to the use of inaccessible software. His job is saved and duties reassigned thanks in large part to persistent, effective advocacy.
  • April 2006 – In response to effective advocacy, Google begins the process of rolling out its audio playback CAPTCHA and agrees to hire software engineers in a commitment to become more accessible overall.
  • May 2006 – Google completes roll out of audio CAPTCHA.
  • June 2006 – Darrell and Karen are married in a wonderful ceremony and reception aboard the Odyssey with family and close friends in attendance. You may listen to a recording of the ceremony.
  • June 2006 – In response to a letter from Blind Access Journal, Sirius Satellite Radio adds an audio playback feature to its CAPTCHA, restoring the ability of blind subscribers to listen online.
  • July 2006 – Darrell is quoted in a brief article entitled Google for the Blind in the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • August 4, 2006 – Darrell and Karen make their debut with the Desert Cafe show on ACB Radio Interactive. The show now has a permanent time slot at 22:00 UTC every Monday.
  • October 2006 – Bloglines responds to our report of accessibility challenges after changes made to the web site by taking effective, prompt steps to restore accessibility. We thank Ben Lowery with Bloglines for his fast response.
  • January 2007 – Darrell becomes co-host with Jeff Bishop of Main Menu, a technology oriented talk show from a blindness perspective, on ACB Radio Mainstream.
  • January 14, 2007 – Darrell and Karen appear on the Marlaina program on ACB Radio Mainstream.
  • January 2007 – FeedBurner adds an audio CAPTCHA.
  • February 26, 2007 – Darrell undergoes the first of two surgeries to repair a retinal detachment in his right eye. The first surgery includes a cornea transplant and minor laser work.
  • March 16, 2007 – Darrell undergoes second surgery after second retinal detachment. This one turns out to be much more serious and painful.
  • May 2007 – Skype responds to accessibility concerns from Blind Access Journal and other parties by releasing an update resolving the most critical issues.
  • May 2007 – We get an effective, prompt response from the U.S. Senate concerning an accessibility issue on the web site.
  • May 2007 – Blind Access Journal weighs in on the Freedom Scientific v. Serotek lawsuit in defense of Serotek with a petition asking that the parties resolve their differences in a manner that preserves innovation in the assistive technology industry.
  • May 2007 – Darrell publishes the following thought provoking articles, resulting in requests for republication in several blindness organizations’ monthly magazines:
  • June 7, 2007 – Freedom Scientific settles with Serotek in a manner that permits Serotek to continue developing and selling its innovative technology.
  • June 2007 – Darrell publishes the thought provoking article entitled My Thoughts on the Relationship Between Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, Consumers and the Blindness Assistive Technology Industry as discussions of the state of the blindness assistive technology industry continue at a fever pitch.
  • July 2007 – Blind Access Journal begins promoting the Yahoo! Accessibility Improvement Petition asking the company to make all their CAPTCHAs accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The petition is still ongoing, and is officially endorsed by the American Council of the Blind.
  • July 2007 – Darrell publishes Accessibility Is A Right, Not a Charity, Convenience, Luxury or Privilege in an attempt to further clarify the absolutely critical nature of the need for accessibility to facilitate our civil rights as people who are blind or visually impaired. We believe this article has been republished, with permission, in Dialogue Magazine, as well as several others.
  • July 2007 – After we wrote a letter to Netralia, the developer of the CallBurner Skype call recording software, we received an incredibly quick response in the form of an accessible application! See this article for the full story. We thank Paul Andrews at Netralia for spearheading this effort. CallBurner has become the only application we use for all our Skype call recording needs. It turns out to be quite useful in advocacy situations in combination with the Skype-in or Skype-out services for receiving and placing telephone calls, as well as in recording interviews for eventual replay on radio shows and podcasts. CallBurner is the official Skype telephone call recording program of the Blind Access Journal!
  • August 2007 – Darrell publishes Imagine The Dark Future of CAPTCHA and Multifactor Authentication for the Blind as a wake up call to the blind community.
  • August 2007 – Darrell’s letter to Leo Laporte concerning the need for accessible CAPTCHA is read and discussed in depth on Episode 102 of the Security Now! podcast with Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson.
  • September 2007 – The new blind-access mailing list is created as a core group of interested parties discussing effective approaches to accessibility evangelism. You may join by sending an e-mail to with the word subscribe in the subject field.
  • September 2007 – Darrell publishes The Heart of Accessibility Evangelism in response to several disturbing conversations on the subject.
  • October 2007 – We ask Freedom Scientific to take steps to reasonably accomodate its deaf-blind customers by making text transcripts available for all their podcasts and other audio content.
  • November 2007 – adds an audio playback feature, making their CAPTCHA accessible.
  • November 29, 2007 – Darrell’s sister, Michelle Sinnock, passes away due to lung cancer.
  • December 2007 – Darrell writes letter to the developers of Messenger Plus Live asking for an accessible alternative or removal of the CAPTCHA required to uninstall the sponsored version of their software.

As you all can see, we have accomplished a few things. There is, however, so much more left to be done. Several challenges over the past couple of months have resulted in very little activity here on the journal. One blind couple can’t do everything! The task of keeping the journal running is monumental. We are, thus, asking for your support as our faithful readers. Please consider doing one or more of the following:

  1. Join the blind-access mailing list. Send a blank e-mail to with the word subscribe in the subject field. This list serves as a vehicle for informal discussion of accessibility issues and ways in which we might best evangelize their favorable resolution.
  2. Submit your own articles, ideas for articles or any other useful information directly to us by writing to our e-mail address or by leaving a message on our comment line at 206-350-2621.
  3. Place telephone calls, sign petitions, write letters and take all other actions we request of you from time to time in order to show your support for our right to have the accessibility we must be granted in order to fully participate in society.

2008 is now upon us. We wish all of you happiness in this new year, and invite all of you to join us out here on the front lines of accessibility evangelism!

Categories: accessibility, advocacy Access Awards Nominations Sought

January 1, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
With all of the award shows on TV, frankly, we felt left out. So, we’ve decided to launch the first ever Blind Bargains Access Awards. We’re accepting nominations in ten categories ranging from Best Screen Access Program to Person of the Year. Submit your nominations (one form per person, please) by January 14 at 5 PM eastern. We’ll compile a list of the most popular nominations for the voting round, so stay tuned.
To submit your nominations, visit:
Categories: Uncategorized