VITAC Among Panelists in FCC Forum on Audio Description

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will host a “Video Programming Accessibility Forum – Online Audio Description” on Monday, March 28, from 1-3:45 PM ET.

The virtual event will explore the state of audio description availability for online video programming, including current best practices and technical issues to overcome. It also will discuss ways to enhance accessibility, such as voluntary actions to promote online audio description.

The forum will include two panels – one featuring Heather York, VITAC’s Vice President of Marketing and Government Affairs – and include speakers from the television, cable, and online video programming industries as well as consumer advocates.

The first panel will discuss audio description best practices. In addition to York, the panel will feature Martha Heller, Vice President, Government Relations and Regulatory Counsel, Paramount Global; Sarah Herrlinger, Senior Director, Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives, Apple; Carl Richardson, Co-Chair, Audio Description Project, American Council of the Blind; and Lori Samuels, Senior Director of Accessibility, NBCUniversal.

The second panel will discuss promoting online audio description, and will include Satauna Howery, voice actor and audio description advocate; Karin Jue, Senior Director & Head, PBS KIDS Distribution; Daniel Kocmarek, General Manager, Global Video Supply Chain and Content Operations, Prime Video; Petr Kucheryavyy, Senior Manager, Accessibility Center of Excellence, Charter Communications; and Clark Rachfal, Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, American Council of the Blind.

Audio description inserts audio-narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements into natural pauses in a program’s dialogue, making it more accessible to individuals who are blind or with low vision. FCC rules require certain television broadcast stations and multichannel video programming distributors to provide audio description for a portion of the video programming they broadcast on television.

“Consumers currently watch a large volume of video programming online, but the availability of audio description online is inconsistent, even for video programming for which an audio description track already exists,” the FCC writes.

The forum will be streamed live on www.fcc.gov/live (with open captions and sign language interpreters) and the FCC’s YouTube channel.