The following blog post was written by Paul Nyhan, a staff writer with the Microsoft Accessibility Blog. Paul is a 20-year journalism veteran who has written extensively about disability issues.
One of Microsoft’s leaders in accessibility, Ann Marie Rohaly, was honored as a 2014 Woman to Watch today for her work to make movies, television shows and other video accessible to everyone, including viewers with disabilities.
The national broadcasting award from TVNewsCheck recognizes Rohaly for more than 15 years of work on digital media, including work on closed captioning standards that improved accessibility as video content increasingly moved online.
Over the past six years, Ann Marie led an effort by the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers to create standards for closed captioning of video on the Internet, including methods to convert captions from existing formats used for TV programs. An internationally recognized expert in digital video, visual displays and accessibility, her efforts helped the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) develop regulations, issued in 2012, to govern closed captioning of Internet programs. She also served on an advisory committee that made recommendations to the FCC about its regulations.
As movies, TV shows and other videos moved to the Internet, Ann Marie and Microsoft played leading roles in the creation of usable and clear closed captioning standards that help ensure viewers who are deaf, hard of hearing or have other disabilities have access to this content. In the last few years, for example, Ann Marie helped Microsoft implement closed captioning support on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
The honor from a leading voice in TV broadcasting highlights that accessibility is not a niche concern, considered towards the end of development of a show, or product. Today, broadcasters, media and technology companies see accessibility as a core issue that deserves development and recognition. This award highlights Microsoft’s commitment to the issue and its work to make movies, TV and other types of video more accessible.
“Movies, TV, and other popular videos are an integral and defining part of our culture, and as technology advances, we have to make sure people with disabilities have access to these programs, for educational, entertainment and public safety reasons,” Ann Marie, director of accessibility policy and standards at Microsoft, said.