NPR, Harris, Towson University launch hearing, sight impaired HD effort


NPR, Harris Corporation and Towson University announced a new initiative to make radio more accessible to the hundreds of millions of hearing and visually impaired people around the world. At a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, they announced the global accessible radio technology initiative and provided the first live demo of the accessible radio technology. The group also announced a new research center for developing future technologies on the campus of Towson University near Baltimore, MD. Additional plans call for the establishment of an international consortium of equipment manufacturers, broadcasters and other organizations to help foster broad adoption of the initiative.

The initiative will leverage HD Radio technology to enable hearing-impaired people to “see” live radio content on specially equipped receivers by applying television closed-captioning processes to radio broadcasts. The technology also will provide audio cues and voice prompts, as well as advanced radio reading services, for those visually impaired and blind.

They showcased the first over-the-air transmission of the accessible radio technology using a signal from WX3NPR, a special temporary station authorized by the FCC for the live broadcast. Attendees at the press conference watched the text transcript of the NPR flagship morning news magazine “Morning Edition” on the HD Radio receiver’s viewing screen. The demo also carried a digital radio reading service that will assist the visually impaired with daily readings of current books, newspapers and magazines.