November 13, 2008

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Vote Yes on New Radio Technology During NPR’s Live Captioned Broadcast of Presidential Election

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- While millions of U.S. citizens voted for national and local elections last week, some of the nation's deaf and hard of hearing citizens were casting important votes on the future of captioned radio broadcasts -- new technology designed to enable them to experience live radio coverage for the first time. The results -- more than three-quarters of people who are deaf and hard of hearing indicated that they would be interested in purchasing captioned radio displays after watching live demonstrations of the technology last week at seven locations around the United States. The election night broadcast demonstrations were made possible by NPR, Harris Corporation and Towson University.

The NPR broadcast, part of an initiative to make radio more accessible to the millions of consumers with sensory disabilities around the world, was shown at private demonstrations at NPR's international headquarters and Towson University in Towson, Maryland, along with five NPR member stations around the United States. At each of the demonstration locations, participants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing filled out surveys in person or online to provide feedback on the technology.

Responses to surveys indicated that captioned radio will be a popular broadcast format for deaf and hard-of-hearing users:

-- 95% were happy with the level of captioning accuracy, a crucial aspect for readability and comprehension

-- 77% said they would be interested in purchasing a captioned radio display unit when it becomes available

-- 86% indicated they would be interested in purchasing a 'dual-view' screen display for a car (which would enable a deaf passenger to see the captioned radio text while the driver listens to the radio).

"Being able to read the captions enabled me to stay current on the election results. I usually tune out the radio when it's on because it is difficult to understand the dialogue with my hearing loss," said Betsy McCarthy, who participated in the demonstration at WGBH in Boston. "This technology would allow me instant access to a broadcast as opposed to taking the extra time to obtain a transcript when one is available."

Demonstration participants also showed a strong desire to rely upon captioned radio in emergency situations -- on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely important, they ranked emergency notifications at 9.6 when asked what types of information would be important to receive through captioned radio broadcasts. General news came in second at 8.0.

The survey also included a number of questions regarding format preferences, such as the speed of the scrolling text and the size of the text. The information will be used to improve future captioned broadcasts.

"The survey responses indicate this broadcast was very well-received by the audience," said Dr. Ellyn Sheffield, assistant professor of psychology at Towson University, who conducted the survey portion of the event. "The detailed feedback we received from this broadcast will help us improve both the text-display and the user-interface for future radios, making the captioned radio experience significantly more enjoyable for consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing."

The telecast leveraged cutting-edge digital HD Radio(TM) technology to enable people who are deaf to experience NPR's election coverage by viewing live radio content on specially equipped receivers. Stenocaptioners from WGBH in Boston monitored NPR's live coverage and fed instantaneous speech-to-text transcriptions to the participating NPR stations and to NPR's web site.

"The telecast demonstrated the enormous potential of digital radio and how it can reach new audiences," said Howard L. Lance, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Harris Corporation. "HD Radio's benefits extend well beyond clearer signals and better sound -- it sends data, scrolling real-time text, even images. This telecast ushers in a whole new era of radio that can now finally be experienced by millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing people."

"This historic broadcast was extremely successful and clearly demonstrated that this important captioning process and the associated technologies are ready for prime time," said Mike Starling, chief technology officer and executive director of NPR Labs. "We are also continuing to receive important feedback from many of the people who are deaf and hard of hearing who took part in this event, and we intend to use that information to improve future captioned radio broadcasts."

The event was coordinated by the International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART), which is headquartered at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. Founding members also include NPR and Harris Corporation. Towson houses the primary administrative and academic research office for the initiative, NPR Labs in Washington, DC, provides the technology R&D and software development, and Harris Corporation supplies the transmission and research support at its radio broadcast technology center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

More information on the initiative can be found at . In addition to NPR, Harris Corporation, and Towson University, ICART member organizations include iBiquity Digital Corporation, Delphi, 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's Accessible Radio project is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research (NIDRR).

About NPR

Since its launch in 1970, NPR has evolved into a leading multimedia company, award-winning primary news provider and dominant force in American life. NPR produces and/or distributes 1,500 hours of programming weekly, including more than 150 hours of news, information, talk, entertainment and cultural shows for the 800-plus NPR Member stations around the country, attracting 26.5 million listeners weekly. NPR also programs two 24/7 channels for Sirius satellite radio and five 24/7 music multicast channels for digital HD Radio, having served as an industry leader in HD research and development; additionally it produces nearly 90 podcasts, making it the biggest podcaster among American media companies. offers extensive original video and audio content, hourly newscasts, concerts and free audio streaming of current and archived NPR programs.

About Towson University

Founded in 1866, Towson University is recognized among the nation's best regional public universities, offering more than 100 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in the liberal arts and sciences, and applied professional fields. Located in suburban Towson, eight miles north of Baltimore, the university's beautifully landscaped, 328-acre setting offers a pleasant environment for study and a diverse campus life, as well as easy access to a wealth of university and community resources. With more than 20,000 students, Towson University is the second-largest public university in Maryland. As a metropolitan university, Towson combines research-based learning with practical application. Its many interdisciplinary partnerships with public and private organizations throughout Maryland provide opportunities for research, internships and jobs. The university's radio station, WTMD, will soon convert to digital format and will serve as the initial testing ground for the initiative. Towson University is a founding member of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU); TU President Robert Caret holds the office of president. Additional information can be found at .

About Harris Corporation

Harris is an international communications and information technology company serving government and commercial markets in more than 150 countries. Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, the company has annual revenue of $5.4 billion and 16,500 employees-including nearly 7,000 engineers and scientists. Harris is dedicated to developing best-in-class assured communications(R) products, systems, and services. Additional information about Harris Corporation is available at .

HD Radio(TM) is a proprietary trademark of iBiquity Digital Corp.

Harris Corporation

CONTACT: Jim Burke, Corporate Headquarters, +1-321-727-9131,[email protected]; Danielle Deabler, NPR, +1-202-513-2303,[email protected]; or Carol E. Dunsworth, Towson University, +1-410-704-4672,[email protected]

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