Seems like everywhere you turn, folks are talking about the movie "Ray," the stunning performance by Jamie Foxx, and his eloquent portrayal of the legendary Ray Charles -- a music genius and proud African-American who was blind. To those with visual disabilities, the DVS (R) Enhanced DVD of "Ray" is a real breakthrough and represents the best collaborations between ACB, WGBH's Media Access Group, EIN SOF and Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Melanie Brunson, Terry Pacheco, and Ralph Sanders of ACB, Mary Watkins of the Media Access Group at WGBH, and Tari Susan Hartman's EIN SOF Communications have joined forces with Universal Studios Home Entertainment Division in preparation of the DVS (R) Enhanced DVD of the movie "Ray" (rated PG-13, running time of 2 hours 33 minutes).

Historically, access to entertainment for blind and low vision audiences has taken a back seat to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captions have become the industry standard while millions of those with visual disabilities have been relegated to second-class status through a relative lack of audio descriptions in movie theaters and on television. Renewed public policy debates focused on bringing descriptions back to more prime-time television programs will occur in the near future. In the meantime, the timing of the DVS (R) Enhanced version of "Ray" couldn't be better, as it brings attention to this much needed and desired access feature, and can prove our clout as a consumer market segment with real purchasing power.

Through the technology expertise and years of relationship-building within the entertainment industry and with consumer advocacy organizations of the Media Access Group, thousands of blind and visually impaired men, women and children are able to have equal access to entertainment on both large and small screens. The current DVS catalog touts hundreds of popular VHS titles, all with descriptions. Videos are available for purchase through the catalog, via an 800 number and are also available on loan from many libraries across the U.S. and Canada.

WGBH Boston, home of the Media Access Group, is America's pre-eminent public broadcasting producer, the source of nearly one-third of PBS's prime- time lineup and companion online content as well as many public radio favorites. WGBH is also a pioneer in educational multimedia and in media access technologies, having developed captioning for television in the early '70s and brought video description to television and videos in the late '80s. Throughout the '90s, these services were applied and integrated into other forms of mass media, including feature films in movie theaters (via WGBH's "MoPix" technology and service), web sites (through development of free software that enables do-it-yourself captioning and description for digitized media) and classrooms (through projects which utilize captioning and description to increase literacy levels and foster inclusiveness for all students). WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, Dupont-Columbia Awards, even two Oscars. For more information on WGBH's media access initiatives, visit http://access.wgbh.org.

The Media Access Group worked with Universal Pictures to bring descriptions (as well as closed captions) for the theatrical release of the movie "Ray" to the large screen in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Toronto and many other North American cities. Movie fans attending a theater with MoPix equipment could enjoy "Ray" with captions and descriptions from the very first showing and for all subsequent showings in the equipped auditorium. (Over 150 theaters in North America have MoPix installations. For a list of equipped theaters, current and coming accessible release and showtimes, please visit www.mopix.org.)

The Media Access Group is now working with Universal Studios Home Entertainment and ACB to bring the DVS (R) Enhanced version of the movie to the small screen -- at a home entertainment center near you. The DVD will be available throughout the country online, by 800 telephone sales, and in brick-and-mortar retailers. A list of retailers will be updated by ACB on its toll-free line (800-424-8666) and web site (www.acb.org) to keep you up to date on where to purchase the DVS (R) Enhanced version of "Ray" as the rollout occurs, beginning Feb. 1, 2005.

While the movie critics herald "Ray" and Jamie Foxx as "Electrifying Amazing Year's Best Film Superb ..." and the team is headed for the Oscars (TM), ACB has deemed this movie, this actor, and the DVS (R) Enhanced DVD to be worthy of its own award -- ACB's 2005 Media Access Award.

"Ray" is the unforgettable story of a man who defied convention by fusing jazz, gospel, and rhythm and blues with pop to create a unique sound that changed the musical landscape of America. Jamie Foxx ("Collateral") stars as the one-of-a-kind innovator of soul who beat impossible odds to become a music legend. "Ray" is the triumphant and remarkable story of one of America's true musical geniuses, Ray Charles. From his humble beginnings in the South through his meteoric rise to the top of American music charts, Ray's life story is a tale of hope, redemption and the power of self- determination. Witness the incredible true story of a musician who fought harder and went further than anyone could imagine.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment Division values this collaboration and is so proud of ACB's 2005 Media Access Award that each package of the DVS (R) Enhanced DVD of "Ray" will bear the ACB logo and marked as "WINNER -- ACB Media Access Award." This is the first time that ACB has been named on the packaging of a product, and is only a taste of our collective ability to do the business with business. The DVS (R) Enhanced version will also be identified with a ribbon across the top of the package that says "DVS (R) Enhanced; Created for the Original Feature Film; Primarily Intended for Blind and Low Vision Audiences."

Hartman has worked with ACB throughout the years with Oral Miller, Charlie Crawford and Melanie Brunson with her clients such as Cingular Wireless, Microsoft, HP, and others, and with EIN SOF's market research provider, Nielsen National Research Group (NRG), hope to conduct focus groups at the next ACB convention in July in Las Vegas. More details will follow in a future issue of "The Braille Forum."

ACB is proud of this breakthrough collaborative effort that serves as a blueprint for working with a variety of business sectors in the future, and encourages all ACB members, families, friends and colleagues to prove our purchasing power and buy the DVS (R) Enhanced version of the movie "Ray" -- you'll be glad you did.

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