Pacific Business News coverage

Here is the coverage of the project by Pacific Business News:

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National Park Service gives University of Hawaii $300K for project aiding the visually impaired
Dec 9, 2014, 7:18am HST

Lorin Eleni Gill
Pacific Business News

The National Park Service has selected a team of University of Hawaii researchers for a $278,300 grant to develop park materials for visually impaired visitors.
College of Social Sciences Assistant Professor Brett Oppegaard leads the team, which will develop technologies to convert traditional “8-fold” brochures into audio descriptive formats.
“There’s transcription, where you transcribe the text on a brochure, and then there’s translation, which we’re most focused on, which is interpreting the experience of the brochure and converting or transforming it into something that can be experienced through the ear,” Oppegaard told PBN.
Oppegaard says the team will build prototypes with different audible forms for five national parks, including one in Hawaii, yet to be determined.
Oppegaard will work with UH Assistant Professor Megan Conway and media coordinator Thomas Conway, both in the Center on Disabilities Studies at the College of Education, as well as Sean Zdenek, an associate professor in the Department of English at Texas Tech University.
The federal 1973 Rehabilitation Act mandated the availability of equivalent media experiences for people with different access issues. Audio description for video is fairly common for federal agencies, but not available everywhere, Oppegaard says. The UH team has combined their interests of mobile technology and web accessibility for the disabled to help the National Park Service to create tools for the visually impaired.
“Audio description is useful for the blind, but there’s other audiences it can help, including people with dyslexia, or throughout the autistic spectrum,” Oppegaard said. “At various parks, we’re going to test with users to find out what works best.”

The team also plans to develop a web tool that will allow people to audio-describe park sites, and help park employees with the transcription and translation process by providing interface that allows users to log in, input text to become audio, and export a file to be used in varying devices for the visually impaired.

“It’ll be a way to experience parks in a way we’ve never been able to do before, not only at the site, but for someone who may never get to a park but wants to have some kind of interaction with it,” he said. “There has been a major [tech] boom for people who have otherwise been disenfranchised, whether through language or lack of sight or hearing…People can tailor these machines to [allow them to] learn information and experience the world, and they’ve been very empowering in that way.”

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