BSL comes to the iPlayer
- 27 Aug 07, 10:28 AM
As you probably know by now, the BBC iPlayer has gone into extended beta testing. Thousands of people are now trying the catch up service, which lets users download TV programmes aired in the last seven days.
As the iPlayer is still in a trial period, new features, enhancements and, yes, bug fixes are appearing all the time. The latest of these developments is the provision of British Sign Language (BSL) content for hearing impaired users. Signed programmes this week include Top Gear and The Secret Life of the Motorway.
If you have ever seen a show broadcast during Sign Zone late at night, then you’ll be familiar with the format. The programme plays in slightly reduced screen real estate, allowing room for a signer to interpret the audio track. No need for staying up all night to watch the Sign Zone any more, then.
The addition of BSL content has received a cautious welcome. On his blog Fintan Ramblings, Fintan, who is hearing impaired, writes that, “Whilst watching it I thought the interpreter was small but watching on the Full Screen is better.” This is a critical point, as understanding BSL depends not just on following hand movements, but on facial expressions and general body language. Fintan added, “I understand it’s at beta stage so I am watching how it develops with interest.”
Navigation still remains an issue for users, however.
Currently, there is no simple way of finding subtitled or BSL content, either through search or by having an access zone, or any other method. Whilst Andrew Strachan, of the BBC’s Future Media and Technology Accessibility Team indicated in a previous Access 2.0 blog that improved search was coming, it is still a cause of frustration in the here and now. As Alison Bryan, a frequent blogger on hearing impaired issues and technology, says on her Noesis blog, “BSL is subject to the same crappy navigation issues as subtitles are. Why make BSL available, and not tell anyone its there?”
So it seems generally that the BBC has a good online BSL product but they're not shouting about it enough. BSL users want to see a 'signed content' link in the navigation all across the site. Speaking to Gareth Ford Williams, Content Producer for Accessibility in New Media, the BBC are aware of this issue and are taking steps to improve search. "We are trying to resolve one issue so that we can introduce search facilities for accessible content. In the future, the iPlayer will also provide filters for more sophisticated searching, as well as logos to highlight acceessible programmes," said Gareth.
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