Advocating for Captions on the Web

I recently discovered that NBC now has some old episodes of  the Emergency series posted on their website.  As a kid, I loved that show, even though I had to lipread my way through it.  This was before the days of captioning on TV.  And today, I feel like I’m right back in the 70s– because there’s no captioning on the TV episodes that are displayed on the web.

Representative Ed Markey introduced the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 on June 26, 2009.  Quite simply, the bill has this as the goal:  “To ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to emerging Internet Protocol-based communication and video programming technologies in the 21st century.”

In other words, it means that if I want to see old episodes of The Tonight Show or waste time watching Deal or No Deal– that I would have access to those episodes just like everyone else.

Isn’t 30 years a long time to wait for captions on the web?

Keep in mind, this doesn’t apply to user-generated content.  So if you toss a video on YouTube, no one is going to make you caption it.  But I sure would appreciate the access if you decided to make your content accessible. And something else to think about: someday your own hearing might go south and you’d appreciate a captioned web.

The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology has a petition to sign. Jamie Berke has a blog with tons of info:  Caption Action 2. Over on Facebook, a group has gathered to push the grassroots effort and get this bill passed.  Won’t you come and join us?

Of course, just clicking on a Facebook group isn’t going to get a bill passed, but there is strength in numbers.  Facebook helped to save a deaf school from closing.

I know you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Not another bill, Karen.”  But here’s the deal–if you contact your Senators and ask them to start a similar bill and contact your Representatives to support H.R. 3101 and help me get this passed and into the law books, I promise I won’t bother you again for a while.

I’ll be too busy catching up on those Emergency episodes.

3 replies
  1. Sarah Bourne
    Sarah Bourne says:

    Have you run across To my eye, “Automatically Generated Transcripts” yet? This is used by the Boston Fox channel site; see for instance. If you didn’t read the title, would you be able to figure out what they are talking about?

    I hope any legislation in this area has a requirement for accuracy: there is no way that transcriptions of this quality should count.

  2. Marti
    Marti says:

    I think web-captioning is a great idea! The sound on my old computer isn’t very good, and I would like to be able to see captioned shows on my PC.

    Hope this finds you well – I’ve missed you!

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