Monday, October 15, 2007

A nagging feeling

I'd noticed an annoying trend that was popping up here and there on the 'net - interviews or articles which were in the form of video podcasts, but which didn't have either closed captioning or accompanying transcripts. Similarly, more and more bloggers and article authors, instead of describing, say, a talking-head exchange they are writing about, just stick the (uncaptioned) video in the middle of the article for the reader to watch, and then go on at great length to analyze the exchange.

Needless to say, these methods of reportage are useless for deaf or hard-of-hearing readers.

I have the luxury of plugging directly into my computer if there is a piece of video I must, must hear. But the process is clumsy (I must change into a special earpiece, connect a cord to it, and connect the cord to the computer, to which I am then tethered until I unplug) and unsuitable for work (the direct-connect earhook does not work with a telephone, which I must be able to answer when it rings at work). Others don't have that luxury. And without being connected to the computer, I absolutely cannot understand sound coming out of tinny little computer speakers, even turned up to maximum volume.

Now, I discover that my nagging feeling seems to in fact be a disturbing trend identified by other deaf bloggers. For example, there have been massive problems with the availability and quality of closed-captioning of HDTV. Many deaf people have bought sets and found the captioning wasn't there or wasn't accurate, only to return the tv and be charged a restocking fee. It's bad enough that The Deaf & Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN) has formally requested reforms by HDTV retailers.

Windows Media Player has an option to allow viewers to view captions if they are available for the video clip you're watching. I discovered and turned on this option after I went deaf - 3 years ago.

I have never, ever, ever, not once, since, ever seen an online or downloaded video with captions embedded.

I expect I will have long since shuffled off this mortal coil before anyone manages to make, much less enforce, some kind of legislation (or international treaty) that says online media (which media? media produced by commercial organizations of a certain size?) must be close-captioned. For now it just makes me kind of sad that CC'ing, cheap as it is, is still an afterthought at best, and has not evolved to be understood to be an integral part of all appropriate visual media.

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