Resolutions establishing the policy of the Federation regarding descriptive video were adopted in 1996 and 2000. We reprint them to give perspective:
WHEREAS, presentation of information by audio-visual means is now a vital part of modern life; and
WHEREAS, audio description of visual images is a service that adds oral description of visual images to television and movie programs; and
WHEREAS, audio description of visual images can be quite useful by adding to the entertainment value of the presentation for blind viewers; and
WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission is considering the extent to which audio description should be required in television programming; and
WHEREAS, although audio description may at times make the presentation more enjoyable, this fact alone does not necessarily justify a requirement by the federal government that virtually all audio/visual programming must contain audio descriptions of visual images; and
WHEREAS, a requirement by the federal government for audio description in virtually all television programming would place an undue emphasis on entertainment as an issue for the blind and tend to draw public attention away from the real and cruel forms of economic discrimination and exclusion of blind people from normal integration into society which exist: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization support voluntary use of audio description in television programming but oppose the imposition of audio description as a federal mandate; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, to the extent that a mandate is justified, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to require both audio and visual presentation of essential information for the public such as warnings of hazardous weather or other emergency conditions.
WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a rule requiring the four networks to offer descriptions of a minimum amount of entertainment programming per quarter, averaging approximately four hours of prime-time entertainment programming per week, provided through the Separate Audio Programming (SAP) audio channel; and
WHEREAS, the blind are routinely denied access to textual information flashed on the screen such as emergency weather updates, news bulletins scrolled along the bottom of the screen, sports scores, program guides, phone numbers in advertisements, the identities of speakers during news programs, and other data not otherwise read aloud; and
WHEREAS, making such textual information accessible to the blind in a standardized form through the secondary audio channel would be a relatively easy and inexpensive process to develop and automate if that specific outcome was firmly and universally required by the FCC; and
WHEREAS, it is doubtful that most networks will address the issue of access to on-screen textual information under the FCC's proposed mandate, which requires only that description be provided for entertainment programs; and
WHEREAS, the vast array of broadcast information currently printed and not voiced is information far more vital and valuable for America's television viewers than is the entertainment programming targeted by the FCC proposal; and
WHEREAS, the FCC should handle first things first and move to entertainment programming only after civic, safety, and health-related information including advertising is routinely provided to viewers without sight: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the Federal Communications Commission to modify its currently proposed and narrowly focused mandate for descriptive video in favor of one that would prioritize making important on-screen textual information universally available to America's blind television viewers through a standardized audio format.