NPR brings election coverage to millions of deaf

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On election night, millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing people will be able to experience live radio coverage for the first time, when NPR, Harris Corporation and Towson University simulcast the first ever live, captioned radio broadcast.  NPR News’ extensive election night coverage will be simulcast in the new captioned radio format, providing accessible news and journalism to deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.  Captioning for the historic broadcast is being provided by WGBH’s Media Access Group.


The broadcast will be coordinated by NPR, Harris Corporation and Towson University as part of an initiative to make radio more accessible to the millions of consumers with sensory disabilities around the world. Nearly seven million people in the United States are either deaf or hard of hearing, and more than 28 million Americans report having trouble with their hearing, according to Gallaudet University.

The broadcast will be shown at private demonstrations at NPR’s international headquarters in Washington, DC and three NPR Member stations around the United States.  Stations hosting these broadcasts include: WTMD in Baltimore, WGBH in Boston, and KCFR in Denver.  WGBH in Boston will be acting as a technical resource for monitoring and caption production. The demonstration taking place at NPR’s headquarters in DC on election night will use WAMU’s HD transmission of the captioned radio coverage.  The election broadcast also will be carried simultaneously on the Internet for anyone, anywhere, to view at NPR.org.

The broadcast will leverage HD Radio technology to enable deaf people to experience NPR’s election coverage through viewing live radio content on specially equipped receivers.   WGBH’s expert "stenocaptioners" will be monitoring NPR’s live coverage and feeding instantaneous speech-to-text transcriptions to the participating NPR stations and NPR.org which will stream the caption text.

The election broadcast is the latest event coordinated by the International Center for Accessible Radio Technology (ICART), which is headquartered at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. ICART was launched in January of this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, when the organization conducted a live, local over-the-air broadcast of captioned radio for an audience at the show.