Fernsehturm © / Christian Spahrbier

Hamburg broadcaster NDR is expanding its accessibility efforts

This includes more subtitles along with programmes in “simple language” to help migrants and people with reading difficulties

The broadcaster Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR), based in Hamburg, has expanded its accessibility programme. The broadcaster is pursuing the goal of making its various products accessible to as many people as possible. NDR is responsible for coordinating accessibility within the national public broadcasting network, ARD. At meetings with representatives of associations for the blind and visually impaired and for the deaf and hearing-impaired, NDR presented what has been achieved so far and the next steps.

Subtitles for 76 percent of TV broadcasts

The organisations were particularly vocal in their praise of NDR’s television subtitling. “NDR is leading the way in Germany when it comes to putting accessibility into practice. This is especially true of subtitles for television broadcasts,” says Thomas Zander, Federal Coordinator for Accessible Media at the German Deaf Association. “We are absolutely delighted that the organisations recognise our efforts,” comments Niels Rasmussen, Head of the Accessibility Working Group at ARD. Deaf and hearing-impaired persons can now follow an average of 76 percent of NDR’s television broadcasts with subtitles. In 2012 it was just 42 percent.

More children’s programmes with sign language

NDR will continue the sign language edition on of its children’s news programme from NDR Info, a project that has already won several awards, after the summer school break. The same goes for the music videos in sign language, with ten new songs to be produced in the second half of the year. And the sign language interpreter, Laura Schwengber, will be in action live on the stage at three venues on the NDR Summer Tour.

Many positive initiatives

NDR has also made further progress with its audio descriptions for the visually impaired. 12.5 percent of prime time evening television broadcasts are now available with descriptive audio commentary. NDR was the first of Germany’s state broadcasters to launch live audio descriptions, with commentary this year already for the “Eurovision Song Contest”, the “Echo” award ceremony and the “Klein gegen Gross” family game show. “Big thanks go to NDR. They are really pushing ahead with audio descriptions. There were many positive initiatives in recent months. I am thrilled by the courage of NDR in this area,” says Hans-Werner Lange, Vice President of the German Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Translation of complicated text

New to the accessibility portfolio is the “simple language” initiative. It began with online reports, including “NDR in simple language” for Literacy Day on 30 April. “This new initiative is targeted at people for whom the scripts are often too complicate,” says Ursula Heerdegen-Wessel, Editor-in-Chief of Accessibility Products at NDR. “The ‘simple language’ helps them to understand the text better. It is thus a means for achieving accessibility.” This “simple language” helps not just the disabled but also people with literacy problems and migrants.

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