Captioning the Internet by Jan Christensen

Target was sued recently because its website was inaccessible to the blind. A court ruled that a retailer’s website is a virtual “location,” and must be as accessible as an actual store.

In June of 2008, Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, and Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2008″ (H.R. 6320). The bill would require major producers of Internet videos and on phones that deliver video streams to add captions.

The goal, Markey said, is “to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as technology changes.”

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, about half of U.S. Internet users now watch video online. Many want to watch YouTube videos which are mostly produced by individuals. They may never be required to caption their short videos because they are not commercial enterprises. However, the good news is that YouTube is encouraging everyone to do so. Go here to see how it can be done, and tell anyone you know who is submitting material to YouTube:

Few prime-time video streams include captions. For example, NBC captions many of its Internet streams, but CBS does not. These are the corporations the law is addressing.

The main problem is that there is no single common file format or way for all media players to handle captions.
A coalition of over two hundred organizations representing hard of hearing, deaf and blind people are working to advocate for the Markey legislation. Here is a link to that coalition’s website. There, be sure to “sign” the petition about captioning internet media.

0 thoughts on “Captioning the Internet by Jan Christensen

  1. I was really excited to read about the house bill and COAT a few weeks ago when I posted about netflix. Progress is slow, but we’re getting there! Thanks for writing about this and the lawsuit brought against Target. I wonder how this will impact future video advertising on the net?

  2. Hi Kim. It would be wonderful if this bill could get passed, but it’s about a year old now, and I have to wonder how long it might take.

  3. Bill, I had no idea that many YouTube videos were captioned! I just found out the other day how to search for captioned ones by changing the “type” on the screen after doing the search to closed captions. Thanks for searching this out for us! It would be wonderful if they all were–I get lots of emails with links to YouTube vidoes, and most of those are not captioned.

  4. I am surprised to learn about the bill dying and being resurrected, because I searched the web about it, and found nothing that current about the matter. Thanks for the head’s up.

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