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Say WHAT?: the inadequacy of transcribed captions by Michele Linder

A few months ago, Cathy Zimmerman, a fabulous lady from my SayWhatClub home list, Connect, shared with our group her recent honor at being nominated, by Sister Ann M. Horvat, SCN, for her local newspaper’s Top 20 to Watch, which showcases great people in southwestern Pennsylvania doing extraordinary and wonderful things.  These people often go unnoticed and unrecognized. They aren’t doing what they do for the personal attention it will bring them.  They simply love helping others and making a difference in the world and in their own communities.

Cathy certainly fits the bill, admitting that it was a little difficult to accept the nomination.  It took Sister Ann pointing out the extra publicity for Hear Fayette and their Highway Hearing Safety program to convinced her to accept.  Also, she considered the video to be nice recognition for something that she really loves to do.

“I’ll do most anything to help others understand what we need–just a little extra time and patience. It’s so easy to do, but people just take it for granted that we can all hear.”, Cathy said.  “I was afraid to do anything about my hearing until I recognized the sadness of people in our area that had no one to help. Now, as some people say, I am hard to shut up.”, she added.

As I mentioned, Cathy had sent the Herald-Standard article link to the list, but when I clicked on it I didn’t see the option to choose closed captions for the video.  So I watched without captions.  I found it very easy to lipread Cathy.  Sister Ann, not so much.  However, halfway through I discovered I hadn’t scrolled down far enough to see the cc button on the video.  I started the video from the beginning, enabling the automatic transcribed YouTube captions.

I’ve included a written transcript of the entire video, linked above, with transcribed captions following this writing.  For comparison purposes, I’ve correlated the corrected open captions side-by-side with the transcribed caption so you can actually see for yourself what a big waste of time the automatic transcribed captions are — “drivel”, as I’ve heard some call them — and can see what really was said.

The transcribed captions are also misleading… if someone had no knowledge of what the video content was, they might think it had something to do with travel, as Atlanta, Cairo, Baghdad, Alaska and the Baltic are all mentioned.

One could also assume there is some racial content, as black men and women accidents are touched on in the automatic transcribed text.

How about historical or fantasy figures?  Reading along and seeing click, click, click made me think of the line in the Christmas song “Up on the housetop, click, click, click, down through the chimney with old Saint Nick”.  And, the reference to last tooth surely had something to do with the Tooth Fairy, didn’t it?

Perhaps the funniest and most shocking transcribed captioning faux pas was pointed out to me by Cathy herself.  When I mentioned how awful the transcribed captions were, Cathy replied.  “The captions were truly bad! I’m not sure if Sister looked at the CC, but she would probably be aghast that she mentioned “hostile condoms” in her introduction!”

Congratulations to Cathy on the recognition of her valuable contributions to her community!

Major fail to YouTube Automatic Transcribed Closed Captioning!

A big “Thank You” to Michael Lockrey and Melel Media for providing corrected open captions for the Herald Standard news video showcasing Cathy’s nomination to the “Top 20 to Watch”.  You can view the video with corrected open captions here:

I’d also like to thank the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC), where I connected with Michael Lockrey, for all of the work they do to advance the cause of universal and uniform captioning.  I’ve learned a lot from them, and through them have taken my own captioning advocacy to a new level.

NOTE:  Some of the transcribed text was so impossible to match to the corrected text I was forced to rely solely on the time counter .

0:00  my name is sister environment i can notMy name is Sister ann Horvet.  I am a
0:06  worker dot here it seems all-star specifically starting my ownworker down here at the St. Vincent de Paul store, specifically at the Samaritan’s Well.
0:11  nominate kathleen cinnamonI nominated Cathy Zimmerman
0:14  for the top twentyfor the Top 20
0:16  personsperson
0:17  the most that made a difference in this communitythat did the most that made a difference in this community.
0:20  now before I can tell you all the things that kathy segment did I have to tellBefore I can tell you all the things that Cathy Zimmerman did, I have to tell
0:24  you about since areyou about Vincent de Paul.
0:27  sentence of the cost society is one that actuallySt. Vincent de Paul Society is one that actually
0:32  takes care of the poor their in their twenty s your absorbing the four thattakes care of the poor.  They’re in their 20th year of serving the poor.  That
0:36  meansmeans
0:38  providing low-cost clothingproviding low cost clothing
0:41  furniture hostile condoms nonefurniture, household items,
0:44  interviews for people who are qualified forbiddeninterviews for people who qualify for free food
0:51  three closing three household comesfree clothing, free household items.
0:55  not labor in this process uh… a long time before restarted and introduceWe were in this process a long time before we started and introduced
1:00  projects such as copyingprojects such as cooking,
1:02  computer educationcomputer education,
1:04  upholsteryupholstery.
1:06  and be spentThese
1:07  were introduced in order to help our patronswere introduced in order to help our patrons
1:11  to helpwho need help
1:12  to acquire steelto acquire a skill
1:14  separately intense stareso that they could enhance their
1:17  incomeincome.
1:19  along with thisAlong with this
1:21  came along kathy cinnamoncame along Cathy Zimmerman
1:22  from saint
1:25  to at saint vincent de paul to sponsor barbara brenda she needed to do forwho asked St. Vincent de Paul to sponsor her for a program that she needed to do for
1:30  her project at penn state universityher project at Penn State University.
1:34  so she was the one who introduced here and which is now a-t_ d defeats therapyShe was the one who introduced Hear Fayette, which is now a TDDPP
1:42  volunteer centervolunteer centre.
1:44  care fayette has become so popular that i cannotHear Fayette has become so popular that I cannot
1:48  but cannot begin to tell youbegin to tell you
1:50  nominee projects jackie cinnamon has introduced for the poor”how many projects Cathy Zimmerman has introduced for the poor.
1:54  and texas tech and especially nominating but trappedI wanted to thank Sister Ann, specifically, for nominating me for the Top 20, even
2:00  it bad recantedthough I probably don’t deserve it because
2:04  rare absences small thatI’m just a small cog in the wheel of Fayette County.
2:06  car it said it’s said that he meant service thereThere’s so many human service workers here that are just fantastic at what they do,
2:12  that says that s the completedbut I thank Sister Ann and I really want to thank St. Vincent de Paul
2:14  expects its and entity that it makes a great of expecting andfor taking me in
2:20  but I wanted to do thiswhen I wanted to do this.
2:22  we’ve had it’s been sending him andIt’s been something that needed to be done.
2:25  press that had a good stick by it at that point the banFirst I had to go to Penn State to find out that it could be done
2:29  and out andand how it could be done
2:31  and atlanta cairo likeand then once I got rolling St.
2:33  statements that did not use that it back bedroom was worthyVincent de Paul decided that the program was worthy
2:38  to be down hereto be down here
2:39  event goingand we got going.
2:41  regret what hearing livesThe problem with hearing loss
2:44  instead result is that the other thingis that it’s an invisible disability
2:47  and that people just take effect and that that everybody uand a lot of people just take it for granted that everyone can hear.
2:52  every kid making the big projects that i felt that way intensity tactic that’sWe keep thinking of new projects that might help.  The Highway Hearing Safety Project, that’s
2:57  rightmy
2:58  very specialvery special
3:00  project that the president’s bank that they had been if thatsproject that was inspired by a young man who is deaf and
3:05  he was an accident and whateverhe was in an accident and whenever
3:08  at expectedhe was approached by people to help
3:10  he was using his hands the memory a little bit about goldhe was using his hands to speak and only a little bit of verbal
3:17  event that made the paymentcomment and everybody thought he was a maniac.
3:19  itna treatmentThey didn’t know how to treat him.
3:21  event please click click clickThe police, I think, were
3:22  continues toconfused, too.
3:24  that black men and women accidentsLikewise, I was in an accident
3:27  event ever communicate with that medics by its right here in usand I was unable to communicate with the paramedics because of my hearing loss.
3:33  pathwayThe Highway
3:36  with the fact that upHearing Project is designed to help
3:38  spending and women’s listen and understandpolice and ambulance personnel understand
3:41  what it’s likewhat it’s like,
3:43  how they can communicate with ushow they can communicate with us.
3:45  the cart activities information to themThe card actually gives information to them
3:49  that stateabout how to speak,
3:51  but looking at the present next yearbut when you’re the person who can’t hear
3:53  inept haveyou know how big
3:55  alaska getsa loss it is.
3:56  that i can speak properly to everywhere happeningIf I can’t speak properly to anyone out in public
4:00  baghdad school hereor if I can’t go to school and hear
4:03  later were and it’s not like world uI’m really in a world of
4:07  it expertisemy own and it’s not a good world to be.
4:09  yet but that won’t let that get that yet but they had been to make education manIt’s really a lonely place to be.  We got rolling with the Hear Fayette program after my education
4:14  at penn state and and now were reaching at at patni ac how many people that areat Penn State and now we’re reaching out and finding out how many people there are
4:20  with hearingwith hearing
4:24  last toothloss and
4:26  but the most important things and not bother people have itwhat we can do with them.  I wanted to say one of the most important things is how other people have
4:31  what i’ve said that the setbacksinspired me.  When I say I don’t deserve this I know
4:33  and a lot of people who did it because they asked people talk the interfacea lot of people who do because they are the people who talked me into this.
4:37  if he could getThey are the people who had faith that I could do it.
4:38  they expectedThe
4:41  people attempting to keep popular baltic back herepeople at St. Vincent de Paul who are volunteers down here
4:45  and i think if inspirationare my biggest inspiration.
4:47  made work sent via blackberry doThey work so hard at what they do
4:50  just to be able to have that the peoplejust to be able to help other people.
4:54  may have taken aThey had faith in me
4:56  ever thought spared may enrightand they’ve all inspired me and I really, really, really have to thank them.

0 thoughts on “Say WHAT?: the inadequacy of transcribed captions by Michele Linder”

  1. Great job!! The transcripts, side-by-side, really show how worthless the standard automatic captioniong is. Watching Cathy’s interview, captioned by, shows how good captioning can be!

  2. I don’t’ know whether to laugh or cry with the YouTube captioning. When I first went to watch the video with Cathy, I put the captions and sometime later turned them off to go with lip reading. It’s wonderful of you to advocate for real captioning of Cathy’s video. Many thanks to Melel Media for making it easier for us to understand.
    I was thinking YouTube’s terrible captioning services is similar to how those of us with sensorineural hearing loss hear. How we come up with off the wall things. Maybe we should advertise that about YouTube’s captioning… “This is how we hear, can you imagine living life like this?” lol
    Nice article! Loved reading it.

  3. Thanks for writing about this. I had a similar experience recently when I was learning how to download books from my library website onto my new Nook eReader. They had a video demonstration on the website. The captions were useless (as always), and as an employee of the same library system I was embarrassed that deaf access to our instructional video was so inadequate. I had to figure out on my own what to do. Then forgot to say anything about it the next day. You have just reminded me. I am going to put it first on my list tomorrow. Will even offer to caption the darned thing correctly for them if they want someone to do it! But will have to find a volunteer to translate it for me first. *sigh* Kim 🙂

  4. I’m not sure I can post a link here (I know some blogs filter comments with links as spam), but just in case: This video is called ‘Caption FAIL’ and it is hilarious. These guys wrote a script, acted it out, then loaded it to Youtube. Then, using the captioning option on Youtube, they used the captions to reenact the original scene. They do the same a third time. It includes captioning at the bottom for each generation….and it really highlights how terrible Youtube’s automatic captioning is!

    Your article highlights the problem even more (in a more serious way). Like Kim said…*sigh*

  5. I’m with you, Chelle… I do laugh when the transcribed captions are funny… I thought “hostile condoms” was hilarious… it’s not even something someone would say. However, I get so irritated and frustrated after a day of being on the computer and repeatedly running into crappy captions or no captions at all. There have been days when I have cried from the frustration of it!

    Exactly… if the audio was turned off and hearing people were forced to use the transcribed captioning they would get a taste of what hearing loss is like. I do all of the things in trying to make sense of the captions that I do with trying to make sense of what I hear. My brain goes on overdrive and seeks out the subject, that’s why I highlighted all of what I thought during the viewing of the transcribed captions on Cathy’s video — travel, race related, fantasy figures. However, because I knew that Cathy was being nominated, and I’m familiar with her work at Hear Fayette and the Highway Safety Program, I had in inkling of the subject and I could lipread her very well, but someone being shown the video without any explanation as to what it was about could not have gotten much info from the crappy transcribed captions.

    Chelle, I think your saying “This is how we hear, can you imagine living life like this?” is a great way to bring attention to how we hear! ~~Michele

  6. You’re welcome, Kim. Unfortunately, while looking online for things to share in my volunteer efforts I run into this daily, sometimes several times a day. I have no clue why there is such a big disconnect between those who provide online video content and making it accessible. I think it’s simply ignorance, but would’t you think someone in an organization might have the forethought to provide captioning?

    Here’s a perfect example: A video from “The Morning Blend” demonstrating how closed captioning is done, but the video itself is not closed captioned? This video would be of interest to those that use closed captioning, but because it’s not captioned I’m clueless… it’s a bit sad that the description of the video states “Closed Captioning aids the hearing impaired, Moms with sleeping babies, people at the gym, etc.”, but doesn’t provide the very thing that would aid the hearing impaired. What’s even sadder, in my opinion, it’s more likely captioning would be provided to aid Mom’s with sleeping babies and people at the gym, than for my benefit.

    So glad I reminded you of the tutorial that is a source of embarrassment. You go girl!! If we all take the time to point out these things, eventually it will get better. :o) ~~Michele

  7. This is fabulous, Wendi!! Thanks for sharing!! I’m going to share this on the SayWhatClub Facebook page and the Collaborative for Communication Access vis Captioning (CCAC)!! I loved this video!! ~~Michele

  8. Hello Maurine,

    I just checked this article and others on the blog and I’m not experiencing any problems. This leads me to believe, as you say, it’s a problem on your end.

    If anyone else is having any problems with the SayWhatClub Blog, please don’t hesitate to comment or contact SayWhatClub. You can contact me, Michele Linder, personally at

    Thanks ~~ Michele

  9. Michele — just a heads up, this is a spam comment from Maurine (put your mouse over their name — it’s some website for weight loss). I get a lot of responses like these on my blog — they kind of look legit so I got worried when I got the first one. It took a while to figure out it was spam. So no worries — the blog is fine! 🙂

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