Bridge Multimedia Provides Accessible Content to PWD
By John M. Williams
NY, NY – Since 2002, Bridge Multimedia has provided a variety of universally accessible media services benefiting people with disabilities. The New York City based company develops interactive and assistive technology, and produces high-quality digital media.
Bridge was founded by Matt Kaplowitz with the goal of universal access for all individuals. Since its founding, Bridge has become one of the largest producers in the U.S. of accessible media with a staff of 45.
The senior management team includes Linda M. Kahn, Director of Programming Operations; Wendy K. Sapp, Ph.D., Director of Research; and Jeff Williams, general manager. The staff includes developers, systems integrators, 508 specialists, writers, voice directors, video editors, sound engineers, blind/low vision content evaluators, translators, captioner/subtitlers, and curriculum standards specialists.
Bridge’s advisory board represents some of the most exceptional individuals in the U.S. working in the fields of autism spectrum disorder, speech and language development, cognitive research, blind/low vision,
The company provides a variety of services to its clients. Among the services provided are audio description in every media format; bilingual description, captioning and dubbing; accessible web site development; cross disability product design; English as a second language; and comprehensive media production.
As a leader in accessible digital media development, the company works with a developer/programmer/designer team of Section 508 and W3C specialists to create engaging web content that is accessible to people with and without disabilities. As a result, Bridge’s technology integrates the needs of the blind/low-vision, deaf/hard of hearing, print-disabled, intellectual disabled, mobility-impaired, and low-literacy populations. Kaplowitz believes universally accessible media increases the freedom, independence and productivity of people with disabilities, and fosters a more open and dynamic society.
“ The company is at the forefront of setting the pace for the development of tomorrow’s innovations,” Kaplowitz says.
The company received a five-year U.S. Department of Education grant to produce video description for PreK-12 television programming. With TV network and grant funding, Bridge is producing the video description for the entire Saturday morning children’s blocks on ABC, CBS, NBC, and the CW Network, as well as additional programming on PBS, Nickelodeon, CNN, Cartoon Network and others––representing more than 30 TV shows per week.
Bridge has been a recipient through TERC (Technical Education Research Centers) of four separate National Science Foundation grants developing and producing content for an avatar-based isgn language system delivering STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) content to students who are deaf/hard of hearing.
TERC is an independent, research-based organization dedicated to engaging and inspiring all students through stimulating curricula and programs designed to develop the knowledge and skills they need to ask questions, solve problems, and expand their opportunities.
In collaboration with the American Foundation for the Blind, Bridge was one of the earliest developers of a fully accessible interactive platform delivering streaming media: the Universal eLearner.
Bridge has a partnership with National Braille Press to produce accessible versions of twelve picture books for PreK-to-8 year-olds using an innovative multisensory “experiential learning” approach.
Working with TERC, Bridge is developing and field testing a unique cloud-based app that enables teachers of students on the autism spectrum to incorporate specialized annotations and scaffolds into online and eBook documents.
For live entertainment, Bridge is implementing a proprietary fully 508 compliant technology that simultaneously delivers captions, description, translations and enhanced listening to tablets and mobile devices, triggered in part by speech recognition.
The company is equipped for captioning production in both linear and non-linear formats. “We can archive all captioned and description data as media assets for a program or series,” said Sapp.
As well as innovating new technological methods for creating and delivering audio described content, the company also advanced audio description to a new level, through the development and implementation of EXTRA InfoTML( EXpanded Tools forReading and Accessibility).
With an emphasis on details helpful to blind or visually impaired audiences, EXTRA Info provides background information aimed at heightening the overall appreciation and comprehension of a given program. EXTRA Info can be accessed online as streamed audio, as a screen reader document, or as a scalable text file. EXTRA Info, available in various languages, can include set and costume descriptions, character biographies, background facts concerning the settings of a story, and even plot recaps of past episodes of a continuing drama.
Knowing that it must aware of federal activities Bridge has a unique knowledge of federal laws regulating media accessibility, including pending federal legislation. In addition, it continually monitors the Individual with Disability Education Act reauthorization, National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard, the Digital Accessibility Information System 3, the federal electronic document standardization initiative and the Federal Communication Commission’s reauthorization of video description.
According to Kaplowitz, “the world of assistive technology offers unlimited opportunities for creativity, meaningful work, and social justice.
Next up for Bridge: the 5.1 surround sound mix and video description for the television production of Lincoln Center’s Sweeney Todd, starring Emma Thompson, Bryn Terfel, and Audra McDonald, premiering on PBs on Sept. 26, 2014