Your Business and Online Accessibility – #captionTHIS

by Ken Mueller on June 6, 2012 · 31 comments

white 15 Your Business and Online Accessibility   #captionTHISSend to Kindle
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ASL in family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking about the issue of accessibility a lot lately. My father now uses a walker, and sometimes a wheelchair, to get around. It changes the way you look at things. The size of a room or a doorway can have a major impact on his ability to maneuver. Today there are laws dictating how buildings are constructed and what type of accessibility they should have in order to accommodate those in wheelchairs, etc.

And while we think about accessibility in our brick and mortar locations, we often forget that accessibility is an issue online as well. Most of us take the Internet and social media for granted. It’s part of our lives.

If you’re like me, you log online in the morning, check your email, do a quick check in on Twitter or Facebook, and perhaps read a blog or three. During the course of the day you might check in again, watch some videos, listen to some music, and maybe read some articles.

With mobile devices, we don’t even think about it anymore. Rarely do we announce:

“I’m going online”

It’s no longer a discrete activity; rather it’s a part of who we are. Many of us are always online in one way or another. We take that access for granted.

But for many, the online experience isn’t “all that and a bag of chips”.

My friend Joyce, who is hearing impaired, sends me articles from time to time that deal with the issue of online accessibility as it pertains to the deaf and hearing impaired community. She sees the value of social media and has written here about how she uses Twitter.

She recently made me aware of a problem, and a new campaign that deals with online accessibility in terms of the hearing impaired. While the Internet is a great thing for the deaf community, in terms of the information it provides, not everything online is accessible.

Videos, for instance.

A lot of the videos that are available on sites like Hulu or Netflix, or even on YouTube, have no captioning. To those in the deaf community, that eliminates them from viewing and participating.

Watch this video that Joyce shared with me, to better understand what it’s like for a deaf person to deal with web accessibility issues:

 

Now understand, I’m not a proponent of legally mandating that videos be captioned. But I do believe that if a business or individual posts videos online without captioning, they are eliminating a potential customer base if they are not captioned. I’ve put quite a few videos online, and I admit, none of them have been captioned. But my goal is to change that as I move forward.

Honestly, I haven’t even looked into what it would take to do this, but I do know there are some free options out there. It will take time and effort, but I believe it is worth it. I believe that as we move forward, this is not only good business practice, but it’s the right thing to do.

If you have a business, either large or small, and you are creating video content for the web, I encourage you to consider joining me in support of #captionTHIS. I also encourage you to look into what it takes to caption your videos. Those who don’t, risk losing an important segment of the audience. Those who do, might just enjoy the benefits of the great loyalty from those in the deaf community.

As you move more of your business online, consider the importance of accessibility in the same way you would address it in your own physical business.

How can you make your online properties more available and accessible to those who are hearing impaired?

 

 

 

 

 Your Business and Online Accessibility   #captionTHIS
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30 comments
AbbieF
AbbieF

I have  been working with the disability community for the past 15 years. The issue of accessibility across all disabilities is a common topic.  The more we are aware of it, the more likely we are to address it up front.  Whether it is leaving the accessible parking spot at the mall open even though "I'm just running in for a minute,"  insisting that broadcasters caption all TV shows and commercials or asking our local theatres to provide closed-captioning and video-description technology,  accessibility is something for all of us to be concerned about. 

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

We take for granted not having impaired senses. Sadly the share function for my droid browser didnt include a subject title for the twitter. Really nice post ken.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

Very nice post Ken and delighted to pass along.  I had posted this this link: <a> http://search.asltrainer.com/ <a/> the other day on the social media platforms for those who may want to get a quick resource dictionary of sign for words.  You just pop in a word and it will produce a video of the sign language word.  I found it especially helpful in health care communication. 

XpressiveHandz
XpressiveHandz

btw... many people who become deaf late in life actually prefer "hearing impaired".  Where I came from. You will find more and more would prefer to add the term "hearing impaired" as a choice to refer to there hearing status, similar to Deaf/deaf. It's complicated, and a whole other issue. It also varies from region to region, as well as generational evolving of the terms. I use the terms interchangeably because some prefer one over the other, I would like to be inclusive to all.

XpressiveHandz
XpressiveHandz

Ken, I can't thank you enough for  taking the time to read my posts, watch the videos then adding your voice to the cause. Thank you for speaking so eloquently on this issue. You have gained a whole new appreciative audience today. :-) 

KathyZehr
KathyZehr

Thanks for posting.  It's an issue that needs attention.

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

Agreed, Ken! My best friend's parents are both deaf, and both professors at UCSD's grad school. I've heard a lot of stories from her about how accessibility is a constant issue for them. They've found that foreign language films on Netflix are usually fairly consisten with their captioning, interestingly enough. Also, did you know that movies shown on airplanes aren't captioned? My friend's parents investigated why, and the airlines said that it would "cost too much money" to provide captioned content on all airplanes. Amazing, isn't it?

VirginiaLBeach
VirginiaLBeach

Just to let you know, Ken...this post got picked up by the #captionTHIS folks and is now up on their FB page with their deepest appreciation. Their comment says:"We already made a difference. :) Many thanks to Ken Mueller for his powerful blog and for acknowledging his ignorance in regards to online accessibility. Really hope other companies will follow your example!"Know that you ARE being recognized, and you ARE making a difference.  

Shonali
Shonali

So here is something else you didn't know about me: many years ago, I was a "hearing actor" for a theater troupe of deaf actors. That meant that I had to learn ASL, since that was the language they spoke (I use that word intentionally), and then I (and the other hearing actors) would narrate the story/dialog as they acted on stage. It was a phenomenal experience - one of the best of my life.

As I've been teaching at @saishopkins , one of the things we're asked to do for our online classes is make sure multimedia are captioned and/or accompanied by a transcript. My husband works for the federal government and he's told me there are guidelines, if not requirements, about captioning/transcribing non-alphabetic content (don't know if that's the term, if not, I just made it up!) that federal entities post online... @VirginiaLBeach I don't know if that is the same thing you're talking about?

I have clearly been delinquent in terms of captioning on a personal level... and I feel horrid. I am going to start rectifying this right away, so thank you very much for this post!

VirginiaLBeach
VirginiaLBeach

Thank you for writing this post, and for your support of Equal Communication Access. As a Deaf person myself, I appreciate it. I do want to say that currently the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working on developing the guidelines for compliance with a new law that was recently passed - the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. So in reality, we are moving towards legally mandating that videos have to be captioned. Mind you, I'm not talking about those personal videos that Dad makes with his iPhone and uploads to YouTube (although it would be nice if more folks at YouTube did caption their videos). Rather, we are looking at the videos that are news sites and TV network channels. That's where we need to start...then hopefully it will filter down to every person, every where. By the way...just a nitpicky little thing, but we in the Deaf Community aren't too crazy about the term "hearing impaired." We prefer the use of "deaf and hard of hearing" instead. I know many people think hearing impaired is in fact the politically correct term, but it's actually a term coined by hearing people to describe us...not one that we ourselves support or utilize. But putting that aside, a great post and I appreciate your comments and your support. Thank you!  

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @HowieSPM Thanks, Howie. We certainly do take it for granted. Something we need to think about a bit more.

VirginiaLBeach
VirginiaLBeach

 @annelizhannan One thing I do feel I need to clarify... while I agree that on-line ASL dictionaries such as ASLTrainer and ASLPro are good resource for developing one's vocabuary, it must be remembered that these sources can teach you signs, but they can't teach you HOW to sign. ASL is not merely manual spoken English - it is a language of its own with its own syntax and grammar. Too many times I see people tell me "I know ASL!" and then they proceed to sign word for word in English grammatical order. This is not ASL. For example, one might sign "the cow jumped over the moon" using the proper sign for every word...including "the" and "ed" at the end of jump..but this would not be ASL, it would be Signed English. One could use CASE...Conceptually Accurate Signed English which uses ASL concepts but places them in English word order - "cow jump-over moon." But if you really want to ASL this, it would be "moon cow jump-over." 

XpressiveHandz
XpressiveHandz

 @annelizhannan Hi, Anne,  ASLpro.com is another excellent dictionary that also offers phrases, religious and other theme signs at no cost. 

VirginiaLBeach
VirginiaLBeach

 @XpressiveHandz I think it really varies depending not only on the region, but the individual. Culturally Deaf people who were either born or became deaf pre-lingually and grow up using ASL prefer the term "hard of hearing," and identify themselves as Deaf. Those who become deaf later in life, generally do not use ASL and who do not consider themselves members of the Deaf Community tend to use the term "hearing impaired." The Deaf Community refers to people who function more capably in the hearing world as "hard of hearing." Interestingly, although I identify myself as a Deaf person, I would be viewed by many as hard of hearing, because I can speak and lipread and interact pretty well with non-signing people. So "hard of hearing" vs. "hearing impaired" is not merely a description of one's hearing status...it also indicates a cultural status and personal identification, as well as one's functional ability within the hearing world. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @XpressiveHandz Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Joyce. Always willing to help out a good cause. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @annedreshfield that's interesting. I just assumed the captioning would be provided by the film companies. Really odd. Most of the TV shows I watch on Netflix are captioned. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @ShakirahDawud Yeah, our problems usually fall into that category we call "first world problems". 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @Shonali  @saishopkins  @VirginiaLBeach Thanks, Shonali. What I find interesting as I follow the #captionTHIS hashtag on Twitter today is that major news organizations like the BBC and CNN don't caption their online video. They are losing out on an important segment of their audience by failing to do this. Really surprises me. 

 

I actually watch a lot of programs on Netflix on my Android, and always turn the captioning on when it is available, to make it easier to follow the dialogue. I notice at the end of the programs (sometimes the beginning) they list who paid to sponsor the captioning. Would love to see more of this!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @VirginiaLBeach Thanks, and thanks for correcting me. As I wrote this post I actually went to a number of sites to find the correct terminology and found both "hearing impaired" and "hard of hearing", and had to make a choice. 

 

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

XpressiveHandz
XpressiveHandz

 @VirginiaLBeach  I never heard the phrase "hard of hearing" until I moved to the East Coast. As a child, I was hearing impaired. Then my hearing became so impaired I passed the threshold over to being deaf. I do use ASL, though SEE was the only thing that was taught in our area back in the 1980's when I took sign language classes and speech reading classes. The small deaf community I associated with out West mostly used SEE. The classes were taught by a hearing teacher and a Deaf assistant teacher from Oregon School for the Deaf. It wasn't until later I started learning ASL in pure form. When people show me they know some signs. I applaud their efforts. I don't go hardcore on them because I want them to learn, and be encouraged.Those signs they know are the root words. As for word order, the children at the school where I teach are learning Spanish and I tell them it's the same word order. The hardest thing is explaining that ASL is like shorthand. Get to the point with the fewest words possible, leave out all the unimportant words, the, and, etc... That's the hardest thing for them to grasp for some reason.  It's funny you aren't in Lancaster, I thought you were for some reason...

FYI... .I've used all 3 adjectives, but I've found people understand "deaf" better than the other terms, and they speak more slowly and clearly for me when I say "deaf". 

VirginiaLBeach
VirginiaLBeach

 @XpressiveHandz If you are referring to Lancaster, PA...ironically I lived and worked there for awhile, but haven't been back to the area for several years. I now make my home in Louisville, Kentucky. 

VirginiaLBeach
VirginiaLBeach

 @KenMueller You would think it would be a no-brainer that major news organizations would caption their on-line videos. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them do not. In fact, I have found very few videos on very few websites for news sites or TV networks that are. Sad to say, as a Deaf person I am not surprised. The harsh fact of it is that most of these organizations are not going to take the time, trouble or expense to do so until someone mandates it. I sent an email today to ABC News and got a response saying that "they were waiting for the FCC regulations to come out and then they will look into complying." I suspect this will be the typical response you will get....sigh. 

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