A Sound Experiment

I've never considered myself much of a scientist.

So I consider it a stroke of luck when a grant application calling for a "hypothesis" crossed my desk -- just one day after I helped my daughter put together a middle school science fair project. I actually knew how to phrase a hypothesis, and WXXI was awarded money to conduct experiments to test my hypothesis.

So what is a broadcast news director doing in the laboratory?

Several NTID students, under the direction of Dr. Peter Lalley, are working with WXXI to develop practical solutions public broadcasters can use to make their Web sites and political forums more accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. We are using WXXI's elections content to test some "out of the box" solutions that can be accomplished with limited resources.

We've been conducting surveys and gathering input to determine specific needs, and it's been a real eye-opener.

For instance, people who communicate with American Sign Language often consider it to be their primary language. That means reading a lot of text in English, with political lingo and difficult words, is not easy. So logging on to a Web site for information about Election 2008 is not always an option. But one survey respondent asked, "Why can't you underline the hard words for pop-up definitions?"

I don't know yet if there is an easy way to do that, but there might be. That's the sort of thing we're asking...because nobody else is.

(Well - that is a bit of an exaggeration. WGBH in Boston has a National Center for Media Accessibility. I'll be visiting there in a couple of weeks to see if they're doing anything that might apply to our project.)

Anyhow, it's exciting to be on the cutting edge. It the same kind of excitement I get when I'm the first to break a major news story.

Please check out all the details here: http://wxxi.org/citizen/pmi/index.html