Hearing Aids

To those with money to burn on captioning lawsuits

I am almost entirely dependent on captioning to understand recorded media. I can only watch TV and movies with captions. I don’t go to movies in theaters. I can’t listen to the radio. I can’t listen to podcasts.

As you might imagine, I am positively thrilled to learn that there’s an organization out there threatening legal action against organizations that don’t provide captions or transcriptions.

I just have a brief note about strategy that I hope this group will take under advisement.

You seem to be focused on threatening small volunteer organizations providing free content to a niche audience, like ASIS&T and Boxes and Arrows. If your goal is to prevent hardworking volunteers like Jeff Parks from creating audio recordings at conferences, mission accomplished! Why, if we can’t have it, no one can!

Since you’ve got money to spend on lawsuits, please let me suggest some alternatives that would have a more meaningful impact on the world:

  • File suit against Netflix for not providing captions on the vast majority of their streaming movies—and for not providing any way to find streaming movies that are captioned. Netflix is particularly hostile to hearing-impaired customers, refusing to provide customer service via any channel other than the phone.
  • File suit against Apple for not providing captioning for television shows downloaded from the iTunes store. While you’re at it, sue the pants off of them for the abysmal selection of captioned movies they offer. It’s criminal.
  • Hire a team of lawyers to go after all the television networks that provide captioning in their broadcasts, but not on shows streamed via their websites or Hulu. (You’re going to need a big team of lawyers, because it’s most of the networks.)
  • Hire the most vicious lawyer you can find to go after any movie studio that “accidentally” or on purpose removes the captions from the rental release of a DVD.

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, signed by President Obama on October 8, 2010, is a landmark piece of legislation, updating the 20-year-old Americans With Disabilities Act for the internet age. This bill requires captioning of television programs on the internet, as well as many other requirements that will enable the 36 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans to fully enjoy media delivered via the internet.

I’m glad to hear you’ve got money to spend helping to enforce this legislation. How about you leave the IA Institute alone, and focus on getting us some captions on streaming video from Netflix?

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10 thoughts on “To those with money to burn on captioning lawsuits

  1. Karen, you’re on a roll: This is your second post about hearing loss issues today. Something must have happened that got you even more frustrated than the usual everyday stress from our deafness.

    Anyway, you don’t have to file a lawsuit: Just click here and let the DOJ do the heavy lifting.

    [By the way, I had a long, poignant essay that got dumped when the page jumped back completely at random. FML. I’ll retype it in Notepad and paste it.]

    • Karen McGrane says:

      I don’t know who threatened legal action against ASIS&T and Boxes and Arrows. I do know that the threat of a lawsuit was enough to make the volunteers stop creating audio recordings of the IA Summit conference. Obviously I support captioning and transcribing but to me this seems like misdirected effort.

  2. Karen, as I re-read your article, may I suggest you request the organizers supply a CART operator? Usually when you register for a convention, there will be a checkbox if you need accommodations for a disability (per the ADA), and you either mention CART, or someone will get back to you.

    One Very Important Thing: There are two levels available: The least expensive is where the CART operator does .NOT. supply you with a transcript; the second is where s/he does, usually on a memory stick (so have an extra one handy). This is due to copyright/licensing for the work, and costs extra.

    With the transcript, you can post it as a PDF so the content can be indexed by Dr Google. Also, you can easily upload the text file into the YouTube video segments, and Ken Herrenstien’s AutoCaption voice recognition cloud software will use it instead of trying to guess. Here are the simple instructions.

  3. I don’t know which is less clear, the post of the comments.

    Whoever’s running the IA Summit clearly hasn’t bothered to learn anything about the issues involved. Instead of going off in a snit, they could have rightly responded that providing transcripts constitutes undue hardship. Accommodation for disability does not need to be provided in those cases.

    “Some asshole’s threatening to sue us” is not a reason to refuse to even record speakers at a conference for later use.

    Then somehow this topic became a bridge you jumped off. People have been hammering Netflix, Apple, and movie studios about captioning. As an American, I suppose it is inevitable that the first thing you think about is a lawsuit.

    • Karen McGrane says:

      Great to hear from you, Joe. Seems like the sarcasm I intended here didn’t go over well with you. Thanks to the gracious support of UIE, the IA Summit will be podcast again this year.

  4. Karen,

    When I re-read your post again, you missed a common thread: Apple is the most deaf-UNfriendly large company in America …And it’s metastacized into another Steve Jobs co-owned entity, Pixar; which you touched upon when you mentioned the stuff-up over the Disney-Pixar UP! fiasco in November 2009. Also, Apple received a record fine from the FCC in November 2009 for not making hearing aid-compatible iPhones, as required by law. In addition at the Hearing Loss Association of America Convention 2011 that just wrapped up last week, the Big Thing was telephone HAC — Hearing Aid Compatibility, with Engineers from TIA-member companies in attendance.

    By The Way, Marlee Matlin — who is as stupid as a brick — made the situation much worse when she met with the representatives at Disney-Pixar: She uncritically accepted their explanation that the captions were omitted “due to a manufacturing error;” and then, without having their excuse vetted, she went out and announced it to the world, cutting the rest of us working behind the scenes off at the knees while she let them off the hook.

  5. Karen, I too have only discovered your blog. I live in both the UK and the US and I find the UK is much better in terms of subtitling/captioning movies and TV shows. It’s not perfect but we have the Royal National Institute for the Deaf or Action on Hearing Loss here which has been very effective in pushing for captions and where captions are used, they must of course be accurate. This is often a failing with news programs.

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