The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT), a disability coalition focused on accessible technology for people with disabilities, called on the government to delay the digital television transition, citing access problems for its constituent base.
“As the February date for the DTV transition approaches, a myriad of technical problems continue to surface for people with disabilities,” says Karen Peltz Strauss, founding member of COAT. “These include problems with receiving and displaying closed captions, difficulties with the pass through of available video description (narration added to visual program elements during natural programming pauses), and troubles with the hook-up of digital equipment. Consumers have experienced frustration in their attempts to obtain resolution of these issues from TV programming providers, equipment manufacturers and retailers.”
The thoughts were echoed by a prominent Deaf group also.
“Our members report missing and disappearing captions, overlapping captions, captions appearing in the middle of the television screen and blocking images, garbled captions, captions running off the edge of the picture, and captions either exceedingly small or too large,” said Rosaline Crawford of the National Association of the Deaf. “We are very concerned that the analog cut-off scheduled for February 17 will result in members of our community completely losing access to television news, information, and entertainment programming for an indefinite period of time.”
And the blind:
“People who are blind or with vision disabilities are experiencing huge difficulties, not only with hooking up the converter boxes but also serious problems with new digital TV equipment that is not passing through any available video description,” said Eric Bridges of the American Council of the Blind. “The lack of knowledge about how to resolve video description concerns is a major barrier to our community’s access to digital television.”
COAT blames the alleged problems on “any one of a combination of technical failures, including difficulties with local broadcast station signals or transmissions, cable network or provider transmissions, satellite transmission signals, poor adjustment of end user consumer equipment provided by cable or satellite companies, and/or improper encoding and transmission by caption providers.”
On February 17, television will stop being broadcast on analog signals. People using antennas to watch TV will have to use a converter box, but cable and satellite customers should notice no differences.