The other morning I ran across a Yahoo news link:

I clicked on the link and it took me to a video with the headline, “Sign Language Opens Music World to the Deaf Citizens, Sat, Jan 22 7:31 AM IST – ABC News 3:08 | 652 views, Person of the Week Allyson Townsend uses YouTube to reach deaf audience.”  I waited as the video loaded, was patient through the advertisement, and found, not to my surprise (I noted there was no cc icon for the video), that the video was not captioned.  This deaf citizen was frustrated and disappointed.

I then googled “Allyson Townsend Person of the Week transcript” and found another link:

I clicked on the link and was taken to a printed news item, entitled “Person of the Week:  Ally ASL Brings Music to Deaf Followers, Allyson Townsend Delivers Popular Music on YouTube using American Sign Language, By SHARON ALFONSI and MAGGY PARTRICK, Jan. 21, 2011″, complete with an embedded video.  I clicked “Play”, waited through another advertisement, and watched (no cc icon here either) the embedded non-captioned video.  Strike 2!!!!  This deaf citizen was doubly frustrated and disappointed.

What geniuses at Yahoo and ABC missed the “Deaf Citizen” and “Deaf Followers” references in these news stories and posted videos without captioning?  Do they think only hearing people watch news stories?  Would it not occur to someone involved in this whole process that many Deaf/deaf/Hard of Hearing (D/d/HoH) people’s interest would be piqued by the headlines and they would want to watch the videos and would need closed captioning?

Sigh…  a sound I find myself making often these days when looking for captioned videos online.

In all–and I did time myself by the stopwatch on my iPhone–from the time I first clicked on the Yahoo news link, watched the video without closed captioning (which included a 32 second advertisement), initiated a search for a transcript of the video/story, clicked on various news links within the search results list that contained no transcript before finding the ABC news link which did, watched the embedded video without captioning (didn’t know it was the same video until I watched it, and this one contained a full minute advertisement), and read the accompanying article, 11 minutes and 19.7 seconds had passed.

Geeze… all I wanted to do was find out about Allyson Townsend and how she was bringing music to the Deaf!  For a hearing person that would have taken 3 minutes and 50.3 seconds of their life.

That’s more than seven minutes I, as a deaf citizen, wasted trying to gain understanding of a simple news story.  In those seven minutes of wasted time I could have watched two other news stories in addition to the first video I clicked on, provided all three were captioned or I had the ability to hear. That’s not even taking into account that I’m a fast typist, an adept researcher, and basically know my way around a computer and the Internet.  For a D/d/HoH person with less typing speed, less understanding of search logic, and less navigability that time might be much more!



  1. *SIGH* I totally “hear” you! We signed up for Netflix to enjoy movies as a family. Guess what? Only a teeny, tiny percentage of their instant streaming videos are subtitled! Oh, and get this….I can only watch these movies on my PC/Mac. I’m currently using Netflix for their DVDs, but I feel so left out while my family is watching The Office, Pushing Daisies, etc. *SIGH*

  2. I don’t even bother to watch news videos anymore. They are NEVER captioned. Sometimes I accidentally click on a news story not realizing it’s in video form. Oops– sorry– you can’t view that piece of news because you’re deaf. The thing I find the most reprehensible about all of this is that the big news channels like ABC have already captioned these clips for their television broadcasts, and then they STRIP the captions in order to stream them on-line. There ought to be a law. . .

    Oh wait. There IS! But everyone ignores it.

  3. I feel your pain! Happens to me at least once a week, and drives me crazy. Especially when it is obviously about hard of hearing or deaf or Deaf people. For YouTube, however, the person putting up the video has some control over whether it’s captioned or not. You’d think the people involved in that one would have indicated to YouTube that they wanted it captioned by their voice recognition program, at the very least. I do hope you mean the commercial was 32 seconds and not minutes. LOL Have you written to each place and complained? I do that every once in awhile, about once a week actually. But of course, that will take many more minutes of your time.

  4. Oh, yes, I have my Netflix complaints, too!! We don’t do TV in our household so Netflix is how I watch most things I want to watch. I’ve taken to watching foreign films and television shows on my computer just because they are the only ones with subtitles, but the problem I’ve ran into with that is that if there is English dialogue it often isn’t included in the subtitles!! I’ve had to order movies to be sent to my house, because I’ve tried to watch them on my computer and get halfway through only to find there is a bunch of English dialogue and I’m lost. ~~Michele

  5. Kim, I usually avoid clicking on video links, but sometimes, as with the news link I wrote about, I don’t realize it is a video, and figure I might as well watch it since it’s there. This must be common… to click on a link not realizing it is a video. I should know by now not to be disappointed, but I always am. ~~ Michele

  6. Jan, that’s what I was thinking as I was writing my blog article… I’ve held jobs where I had the opportunity to include something beyond what was required and it was just common sense to include it for everyone’s benefit. Why can’t someone who works for Yahoo or ABC do that?? Surely it occurs to someone??

    And, yes, thank you for pointing out my time error. LOL One would hope you wouldn’t have to view a 32 minute ad just to watch a video that’s approximately 3 minutes long. LOL I’ve corrected it!! :o) ~~ Michele

  7. All very true. I don’t watch as much TV, preferring to buy or borrow DVDs rather than endure the endless ads. For news I go online…and it’s annoying how more and more news is in the form of uncaptioned videos. It feels like a return to the bad old days when nothing on broadcast TV was captioned and we had to buy newspapers to get day-old news.

  8. You aren’t the only ones irked by the lack of captioning on videos intended for those with hearing problems. I enjoy Deaf TV videos. They are usually humorous and accompanied by sign language; but I’m in the middle of the road–not entirely deaf and with a little knowledge of ASL but not able to hear and discriminate spoken words.
    Let’s all start some noise about the lack of captioning. Each time we see no captions, let’s make a comment or write to the sponsor or Web site.

  9. This is really annoying. But in New Zealand, we don’t even have full access to the actual television. of about 6 free to air chanells, only 2.5 are captioned, but not fully. Sky TV (CNN, Fox, National Geographic etc… – at least 40 channels) are not captioned here at all.

    We don’t even have any law making it compulsory here in NZ.

    We’ve been fighting for years.

    It’s heartbreaking!


  10. Pris is deaf I hate that house keeper bullshit I don’t want do sometings bullshit I don’t want do anythings please get me out of here I don’t want studys with parents pris don’t have no bills I don’t have moneys pris want use peoples moneys pris wish go to anywhere I love store shoppings pris hate go to with parents tell my parents what happen for deaf sad story pris very too tider I have do anythings at home address is 4224 sunries rd indianapolis in 46228 I don’t like study here with parents stupide friends stree is 44th keller I am girl I hate that house keeper I wish get out of here yes I am deaf pris is girl call real name prescilla it very too tider pris whis go to some where I have no moneys I have no job

  11. I look forward to the day when everything is captioned on the web and I know we’ll get there… but it’s a matter of when. The more we speak up, write and converse with those who put out videos that are not accessible, the closer we’ll get to this goal. Just this morning, I sent an email to someone who sends out one minute videos each day and asked for access.

    Let’s keep working together!

  12. I am deaf can hear with a cochlear implant and get so frustrated on line because of no captioning..>like all those like myself are not important enough to get the facts straight
    I want to see totally across the board cc for all internet
    especially news shows and programs
    its so frustrating to have to try to figure out what someone is saying
    I have it on my television why not internet
    With all the developments in technology I am quite sure they can develop on line closed captioning for all our needs
    Besides being hard of hearing I am also a member of HLAA HEaring Loss Association of America…I am planning on attending their convention in Crystal City Virginia in a weeks time

  13. Dianrez, I like your “return to the bad old days” of no captioning comment. I grew up with a deaf grandmother and remember well those bad old days of no captioning… the only programs she liked on TV were the variety shows — Red Skelton, as favorite because his comedy was so visual. I was lucky in that I could hear well enough to understand (though I did mishear many things) TV until my adulthood… by the time I really, really needed captioning it was becoming more common, but even though we have come a long way the frustrations remain!!

  14. Cathy, making noise is what gets attention… I’ve vowed that every time I come across a video that’s not captioned I’m going to send off an email… if I get a pat reply saying not every email can be responded to, then I’m writing a letter. This experience that I wrote about is what set the issue afire for me.

  15. Robyn, I realize we are fortunate in the U.S. to have so much that is captioned, and in comparison, New Zealand must seem a no man’s land with the number you quoted. It’s such shame it takes a “fight” for broadcasters, businesses, and organizations to include the millions that are deafened or have hearing loss. Keep up the good fight!

  16. Iheartsubtitles, it is downright embarrassing, and I’m red-faced for broadcasters. For too many $$ is a bottom line and they have to be forced before providing communication access through captioning. As I’ve said before, I’m not sure why there isn’t at least one thoughtful person in charge to whom it occurs that a news story about the deaf and hard of hearing will attract… duh… deaf and hard of hearing viewers?

  17. Wow, I got on here to reply to your comment, Jimmie, and saw there were many comments that I’d received no notification for, thus the negligence in replying!! Sorry to all for the delayed response.

    There are many good things happening with regard to captioning/subtitling for Internet videos — TED uses volunteer translators to subtitle their videos in English, but also in many different languages. There also are teachers and others who are using students to caption/subtitle online videos, music and otherwise. I’ll do some research and post info about some of these in the future — but we’ve a long way to go and unfortunately many will not voluntarily caption/subtitle their videos without being forced. All I can say is that we need to use the “each one, teach one” approach and don’t let anything slide. There are 38 million of us in the U.S. alone… imagine if we each complained every time we come across an online video that is not captioned?!!

    Have a good time at the HLAA convention!!

  18. Pingback: Deaf Village

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