Radio for deaf people?

by Liz Ball

Liz BallRadio’s inaccessibility to deaf people is perhaps one of those facts of life most of us simply accept. But could that be about to change?

I had good hearing until my mid twenties. I used to enjoy listening to the radio, especially dramas, documentaries and current affairs programmes. Since becoming deaf, radio has been inaccessible to me and, although it has never been a big issue for me, I have sometimes missed it.

So I was very interested to read about a project in the United States to make radio accessible for deaf and deafblind people through live text captions. And I was pleased to have the opportunity to put some questions about it to one of the project team on BBC Radio 4’s In Touch programme.

In case you are wondering how on earth radio can be accessible, here’s how it works:

  1. The radio broadcast is respoken by a trained person, known as a ‘voice writer’.
  2. The voice writer’s words are converted to text by speech recognition software.
  3. Another person, known as a ‘caption editor’, checks and corrects this text.
  4. This corrected text is then sent to a website or app to be read either in print or braille.

The whole of that process takes just 20 seconds.

So could radio one day be accessible to me and other deafblind people?

I recently took part in a discussion about the project on Radio 4’s In Touch programme. You can listen to the discussion on BBC iPlayer (item starts at 8 minutes 30 seconds into the programme) or read the transcript.

Liz Ball is Campaigns Involvement Officer at Sense

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