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America Online Announces Closed Captions for Streaming Media

Captioning Will Provide Members Who Are Deaf Or Hard-of-Hearing With Enhanced Access To Select Video Content Including Entertainment Programming, News Updates And AOL(r) Member Education Tutorials

Initiative Marks First Time An Internet Service Provider Will Offer Captioning And Extends Company's Commitment To Serving Members With Disabilities

Dulles, VA, October 09, 2003 - America Online, the world's leading online services provider, today announced the availability of closed captions on the service for select multimedia content that will enhance the online experience for members who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This initiative will mark the first time an Internet service provider will feature captioned content online, underscoring AOL's commitment to accessibility and ease-of-use. AOL will debut captions for AOL(r) Member Education Tutorials and "Princess Natasha," an original cartoon series created exclusively for the KOL(tm) service, the first version of the AOL(r) service designed entirely for kids aged 6-12. AOL(r) for Broadband will also roll out captioned CNN news content later this fall. The online captions will be available to AOL members through AOL 9.0(r) Optimized, the newest version of the AOL client software.

The launch of AOL's captioning represents the first step towards realizing the goals of a two-year research and development project between AOL and WGBH Media Access Group, the pioneering organization behind the development of captioning for television broadcasts. The continuing joint project aims to foster the development of technical strategies for enabling the display of closed captions in a range of digital media formats. In addition to collaborating with WGBH, AOL has also been guided by input from leaders of renowned consumer organizations in the Deaf community and the Hard-of-Hearing community, including Telecommunications for the Deaf Inc., the National Association of the Deaf and The League for The Hard of Hearing. The launch is a significant milestone for both AOL and for the Deaf community, whose leaders have been advocating for online captioning similar to ongoing advocacy efforts for captions on television programming.

"Online captioning is a central accessibility issue for the Deaf community and Hard-of-Hearing community and we are excited to be at the forefront of the movement," said Tom Wlodkowski, Director of Accessibility, America Online. "Key to our progress has been our collaboration with WGBH and support from content partners such as CNN and Animation Collective, the producers of 'Princess Natasha.' We look forward to working with additional content providers to expand the availability of captioned multimedia on the service."

"We are thrilled to be able to participate with AOL in this groundbreaking venture," said Larry Goldberg, Director of the WGBH Media Access Group. "While it may seem an easy thing to bring captions to the online world, this was no piece of cake. AOL has resolved many of the operational and technical barriers, so that the world of broadband media can be more accessible."

"This is a tremendous development in Internet accessibility for people with hearing disabilities," said Claude Stout, Executive Director of Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. "AOL is to be commended for this voluntary program to provide us access on the Internet. TDI strongly encourages others on the Internet and in the media industry to follow suit by providing accessible content via captions and other tools to people with disabilities. In doing so, all Americans can experience full access."

"This captioning launch represents an important step forward towards making the Internet more accessible for people with hearing disabilities and we applaud AOL for its efforts," said Joseph Gordon, Chair Telecommunications Committee, Advocates for Better Communication, League for the Hard of Hearing. "It's welcome news for the 26 million hard-of-hearing people in the US who require captioning to be able to understand the audio component of streaming video."

AOL captioning is currently available for "Princess Natasha" and for AOL Member Education Tutorials. Closed captions will be available later this fall to AOL for Broadband subscribers for three daily feeds of QuickCast, a three-minute streaming video produced by CNN that encapsulates the day's headlines, current events and new stories. "Princess Natasha" is an exclusive cartoon for KOL members, which covers the heroic escapades of Natasha, a 14-year-old princess and secret agent from the tiny European kingdom of Zoravia who has moved to Illinois disguised as a foreign exchange student. AOL Member Education Tutorials consist of step-by-step slides that guide members through online tasks such as sending email and setting up Parental Controls.

"Online captions will help kids who are deaf or hard-of-hearing fully enjoy 'Princess Natasha,' as they watch the series with their hearing family members and friends," said Malcolm Bird, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Kids and Teens, America Online. "Captions are a valuable enhancement to the KOL service and will help ensure that all kids, regardless of their level of hearing, have access to an Internet experience that is enriching, relevant to their lives and above all, fun."

Similar to closed captioning for television, AOL captions are displayed directly beneath the video clip and correspond to the audio content. Activating the captions is easy and convenient. Members simply click on the CC button, which appears near the video.

AOL's captioning initiative is an extension of AOL's Accessibility Policy, a company wide priority that aims to address and meet the technology needs of people with disabilities. More information on AOL's accessibility efforts is available at

About America Online

America Online, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL Time Warner Inc. Based in Dulles, Virginia, America Online is the world's leader in interactive services, Web brands, Internet technologies and e-commerce services.

Contact Info:
Amy Gross, America Online



Help Kids Hear is a site dedicated to helping parents of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children. We are parents of hard of hearing kids and simply want to "give back" to the community. We welcome your comments, questions & suggestions. Please drop us a note at