Case Study: Massachusetts Tackles Streaming Accessibility

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On-Demand Voice Response
The objective in creating an on-demand voice response feature was to remove the guesswork that occurs when screen readers try to read the DOR’s Flash content. To assist visually impaired viewers, the department developed a text-to-speech workflow for the MCMS that allows it to add computer-generated voices to the player. Users who select the voice response feature will hear, as they toggle through the menu, a voice announcing the title of each video. They’ll also hear a description of any player control button they mouse over or access with their keyboards. This text-to-speech technology, along with multilingual closed-captioning, provides significant possibilities for non-English-speaking viewers.

Multilingual Closed-Captioning
Massachusetts has a diverse population, many members of which are not yet proficient in English. To help foster communication with this potential audience, the DOR designed its MCMS to quickly translate video scripts into various languages. After investigating a few possibilities, the department opted to use Google’s open translator API. Here’s how the captioning works: Once a script has been imported into the front-end MCMS, a closed-caption format is created by timing the script to the video. Once timed, the DOR selects the languages to be used for closed-captioning.

Because the department prepopulated its Dashboard menu with a variety of foreign language choices, such as Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic, the process then becomes quick and simple. After selections have been made, the system forwards the text on to Google and the correct translation is returned in closed-caption format. The multiple languages are then dynamically populated into the player and published onto the DOR’s website.

Keyboard Shortcuts
To watch a video, viewers need to be able to access it first. Although keyboard navigation for websites is not new, it was vital that the DOR have "hot keys" if its player was to be truly accessible. This eliminates the need for vision-impaired users to rely on a mouse and allows them to control all video player functions (start/stop, volume, voice response on/off, next video, etc.) from their keyboards.

RSS Feeds
In implementing video RSS, the DOR’s goal was to move beyond static RSS feeds by providing direct access to its video content via predefined variables. Viewers can now access new videos or previously archived content through a static, unchangeable tracking identification number.

Social Networking and Civic Engagement
The videos the DOR creates for itself and other state agencies primarily inform, educate, and instruct on taxation and other civic issues. To further these videos’ reach, they must be marketed outside the DOR website, which is why the department posts new content on YouTube, Revver, and Metacafe; announces updates on Twitter; and encourages social networking through civic engagement links (one of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s initiatives) on the DOR player. The department recognizes the value of viral marketing to extend the reach of its message and to gather feedback from its audience.

So there you have it. The MCMS has been a useful timesaving tool, and response to the player has been terrific. But the real payoff is the knowledge that more of the DOR’s audience members will have the ability to navigate through and more actively participate in the department’s interactive streaming media efforts.

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