Barry Solomon from DeafMac (yes) had a meeting with Apple and AT&T to talk about deaf-related accessibility on the iPhone:

[B]igger font sizes for people with low vision, closed-captioning support, option to make all phone calls go direct to voicemail, making voicemail forwardable as E-mail attachments, iChat, relay-service access, more vibration options/customizable for different applications like ringtones are…. I emphasized that most of those things already existed in certain applications here and there, and would make sense if the same options were offered in all applications…. The bottom line I was telling him that those things need to be available across the board, and he couldn’t dispute this.

We had a good discussion about closed-captioning support. They said they couldn’t know if it would be ported to iPhone after it went live in 10.5 this fall, but said that captioning was one of their priorities, and making [QuickTime] able to read captions was important, so that they could then ask content providers to include captions….

In the nicest possible way I have to call bullshit here for a moment. Yes, Apple announced so-called closed-captioning support in QuickTime, and I’ve been waiting for somebody to figure out what that means. Thus far, nobody has.

  • Closed captioning of analogue video signals is transmitted in the vertical blanking interval. .MOV and other digital-video files do not have a VBI – if I’m not mistaken, encoding starts at Line 23, and the VBI ends one field after Line 21, where NTSC captions reside. Is the assumption that captions would be captured and stored in some other format, like QTtext? How are you going to make sure the video file, this other file, and any wrapper files (like SMIL) all make it from your computer to your iPhone?
  • Has Apple really understood the variety of captioning formats in use? Just in analogue television, I can think of three (Line 21, “Line 21”/22 PAL, teletext). Digital? There it gets complicated.
  • DVD Player ostensibly shows Line 21 captions, but cannot display scrollup captions. (If I could find a disc with pop-on captions, I’d test those. I would expect a failure.) A system that displays only one of three caption types from one system does not “support closed captioning” at all.
  • Isn’t there a tiny bit of a font problem? Apple has gotten this wrong before.
  • iPhones and iPods don’t have enough screen real estate for out-of-frame captions. I would expect natural superimposed captions. Getting the alignment right is going to be interesting (widescreen vs. fullscreen and proportional vs. monospaced fonts).

I’m sure an established shop like WGBH already has a secret contract to fix this all up. They’re certainly friends.

DeafMac has a number of other posts on the iPhone. It may be interesting to Americans to read that a payment plan that allows nearly unlimited text messages is unavailable on the iPhone. And if Apple could get this thing to work really well with relay services (especially with hearing or voice carryover), think of the convenience.

Of course, since people equate “accessibility” with “blind person using Jaws,” surely none of this matters – and the iPhone, unlike every other screenphone on the market, is flagrantly illegal and a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.08.07 14:33. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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