Introducing coloured subtitles on BBC iPlayer
One area of key importance in enabling access to BBC iPlayer content for our deaf and hard of hearing users is subtitles.
In December 2008 we were able to upgrade the iPlayer subtitles technology to deliver well over 90% of iPlayer programmes with subtitles, and we've consistently achieved this level over the last 18 months.
Having achieved the quantity of coverage that our deaf and hard of hearing users wanted, I mentioned at the time that we were next going to look at improvements to the quality of the subtitles experience.
I hope that users of programmes which are subtitled live (News or live events) have noticed real improvements in the synchronisation between speech and subtitles recently.
And today, I'm delighted that coloured subtitles have been included on the Apple iPad version of iPlayer, and will roll out across many iPlayer platforms soon.
Here's Kevin Mercer - Usability and Accessibility Specialist for iPlayer - with more details:
Whilst coverage has continued to improve, the on-screen appearance of iPlayer subtitles has remained largely unchanged for the last few years. Feedback from our audiences has told us that one area where we could really improve the experience would be to offer coloured subtitles in a presentation format similar to that used on BBC television. This assigns colours to the subtitle text for individual speakers and makes it much easier to follow conversations between two or more people.
Frustratingly, despite colour code information for subtitles being technically available to us for some time, a fair amount of work has been needed to update the BBC Media Player (which delivers both the video and subtitles information for most iPlayer services) to display these colours, due to the growing number of different platforms the player needs to support, across BBC Online as well as iPlayer.
I'm pleased to say this situation is now changing for the better.
We've recently been working intensively with the BBC Media Player team to make a number of accessibility improvements, one major change being the way subtitle files are handled. In addition a number of new iPlayer services away from the web will also be coming online which can happily cope with the presentation of colour information in subtitles files without the issues we initially faced on the web.
We're pleased to announce that both of these developments will allow the roll out of coloured subtitles on many BBC iPlayer platforms over the coming few months, including the main iPlayer website.
The first place you'll actually be able to see the all new coloured subtitles is on the shiny new release of the Apple iPad version of iPlayer developed by Morten Eidal's team.
The Usability and Accessibility team here at the BBC are really pleased to get this improvement out the door. It's the first fruits of some quite extensive accessibility work we have been carrying out on the BBC Media Player over recent months, more information on which we will be sharing with you in the coming weeks.
We'd love to get feedback on this so please keep the comments coming.
Jonathan Hassell is Head of User Experience & Accessibility, BBC FM&T
Kevin Mercer is Usability and Accessibility Specialist for BBC iPlayer