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The deaf community’s frustration with Netflix may be going away, or at least subsiding for now. Netflix has enabled closed captioning for some TV episodes and movies that you can watch instantly on your PC or Mac, says Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer at Netflix. Although it’s a limited library of content with subtitles available — about 100 titles, including most episodes of “Lost” Seasons 1-4 — Netflix now has released the technology and “will be working to fill in the library over time.” Currently, the captions only work on computers, including PCs and iPads. Netflix says it is working on captions for its game console, Blu-ray, and DTV platforms, which will roll out in releases starting this fall, along with support for 5.1 audio. Netflix offers a flat rate movie-delivery service but as more content is moving online, Netflix has been under pressure to use technology that will caption streaming TV ... keep reading »
I knew Google Voice would have multiple uses for people who are deaf and hearing impaired, but I didn’t expect this news to come so fast: Google is adding automatic captions to YouTube videos. Google announced the news today on its official Google blog, and while the feature is definitely a work-in-progress, it’s an exciting start to machine-generated video captions. Many people know that Google created a YouTube caption system about a year ago. It required users to upload captions themselves, a time-consuming process, which meant that most videos did not get captioned and were inaccessible to people with hearing impairments. With the new “auto-caps”, Google is combining its automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology with the YouTube caption system. Auto-caps use the same voice recognition algorithms in Google Voice to automatically generate captions for video. “The captions will not always be perfect, but even when they’re off, they can still be helpful,” ... keep reading »
On November 6 the FCC held a Field Hearing on Broadband Access for People with Disabilities at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The hearing is one of many that will discuss ways to bring access to broadband to the nation’s 54 Americans with disabilities. The meeting included panelists from A.G. Bell, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, a group that’s making a big push for a federal law that would require, among other innovations, closed-captions (for the deaf) and video descriptions (for the blind) for Internet TV and movies. Academy-Award winning actress Marlee Matlin also served as a panelist on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf. Federal Communications Commission Michael J. Copps spoke at the start of the meeting, and made it clear that the agency is working to make broadband access a reality for the disabled. Here are excerpts ... keep reading »
Congressman Ed Markey introduced the “21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009” bill (H.R. 3101) on June 26, with support from the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT), an alliance of deafness and blindness advocacy groups and others who want to ensure content is accessible as TV shows, movies and videos connect via the Internet using new digital and broadband technologies. The new bill would make closed captioning mandatory for large Internet television and movie distributors, excluding user-based sites such as YouTube. The bill would also lift an outdated standard enforcing closed captioning only on TV sets of 13 inches or greater, opening up captioning to smart phones and other portable devices that display video, according to The New York Daily News. Additionally, the H.R. 3101 bill also aims to revive a nullified standard on video description for the blind, a technology where a narrator verbally translates a televised ... keep reading »
It didn’t mention Abledbody and I’m not really a Yankees fan, but I got a mention in today’s insightful New York Times article about Cory Macchiarola, the man who is behind the scenes captioning Yankees and Mets’ games for the deaf and hard of hearing. It’s a really tough job, I can imagine. Macchiarola began his career captioning Yankees games for TV in real-time. Not only did he capture the broadcasters’ play-by-play, he also translated live commentary from the sportscasters — some who talk a mile a minute; others who discuss “obscure movies with foreign names or unexpected topics like the fear of flutes (aulophobia).” After several grueling years with the Yankees, Macchiarola took a job at Citi Field to caption the comparatively easy public-address announcements at Mets’ games, which appear on the scoreboard. A lot of the text can be pre-programmed, including the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner and Sweet ... keep reading »
This just in from Webware: “In a move to make videos easier to understand without volume or for the hard of hearing, YouTube has given users the option of embedding closed captions.” This is great news for the deaf and hard of hearing; YouTube has 34% market share according to ComScore, and I’m betting this figure doesn’t include much of the deaf population. And this might not change if video makers don’t choose to add captions to their videos – I’m guessing not many will, unless they understand the added benefit of captions for those with disabilities, or even non-English speakers. There are a small handful of content providers already including closed captioning in their videos, including CNET, MIT, and the BBC. It would be great if broadcast networks (ABC, Fox, etc.) would do the same. Do we really need more regulations to make this happen? Just do the right thing! Now ... keep reading »

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