Digital Agency Think.Web today launched YouTube for the Blind, a website that embeds enhanced YouTube videos that can be enjoyed in a much deeper way by the vision impaired through screen readable text that describes what’s happening on screen.
Think.Web co-founder and co-CEO Ramya Prajna came up with the idea in January and approached Google Indonesia about the idea though the company has yet to receive an actionable response from YouTube. Ramya and his team proceeded with the plan regardless and the site now hosts 25 screen-reader enabled videos from popular Indonesian content makers including humor and lifestyle site MalesBanget, comedian Raditya Dika, and Benazio (Benakribo) Putra.
“We were curious with how videos can provide value for our vision impaired friends and wondered how they can experience “watching” them”, Ramya said during the website’s launch. “On this website you’ll find a number of videos that we collected from YouTube but we added text descriptions for non-dialog scenes that can be read by text to speech or screen reading software”.
Think.Web is working together with Mitra Netra Foundation which provides training and service for the vision impaired to overcome their disability and help other people understand the different world the blind live in. Think.Web’s other founder and CEO Anantya van Bronckhorst, said, “Mitra Netra worked with us in figuring out what sort of descriptions will be helpful, how much or how little of it is needed so it doesn’t become confusing to enjoy”.
“This initiative by Think.Web is highly appreciated and we hope it can influence the general public to participate and understand about the rights for the vision impaired which are already set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and [Indonesian] Law 19 of 2011. The blind are disadvantaged due to an environment that does not support their public participation”, said Bambang Basuki, director of the foundation.
“Right now the videos are curated by Think.Web staff but we do plan to open it up eventually”, Anantya said. Public participation is something that the company is hoping for given the potential scale of the project, “but we may still have to approve submissions for quality control”, she said.
The site has a counterpart in the United States called YouDescribe which is run by the Smith Kettlewell Video Description and Research Development Center, an organization funded by the US Department of Education. “I had no idea we are so behind in providing this sort of access in Indonesia. Back in the 80s Thailand already had a book reading service that the blind can call to have books read to them”, Ramya said. “We plan to meet with people from YouDescribe very soon and find out more from them”, he added.
Ramya understood that Google might object to the use of the name YouTube and said that they’ll change it if they have to.
[header image: anantya van bronckhorst by addiction.id]