Thursday, July 23, 2009

Closed Caption Fans, Here’s New Info for You!

Would You Like to See the Captions on Internet-Based Broadcasts, Like Univision website Video Clips?

If you are a Closed Caption user, as many here on C2 are, I have compiled information below about a new bill in Congress right now that will increase the captions on the internet broadcasts we watch. I apologize for any redundancies and unclear information—I didn’t write the items but compiled them from about three sources, which I cite for clarity. The main issue here is that people with disabilities cannot access some aspects of the internet currently—captions for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in particular, and audio description for individuals with visual impairments. You can help change that!

What I take all this information below to mean is that commercial items on the internet would have to be captioned (like anything the commercial television networks put on the internet, which I can't get because I use Mac, but so be it). I don’t know if it means what typical consumers post, such as on youtube, because it's not clear. The general idea is, though, if the program was broadcast with captions on television then the same captions must be available when you view the program on the internet. For those of us who use the captions to understand better, this would be a great help!

Also, note that there are clauses in the bill that say “English language programs” that have been previously broadcast with captions must be delivered the same way on the internet. I think it does not clarify Spanish programming, though I haven’t read through the entire bill. Remember that the FCC has given a grace period for Spanish language programming in the US, since that is a newer format from the FCC caption law perspective. So, if you write your Congressional delegation members, urge them to adopt the bill both for English language and Spanish language programming.

The following information is from Jamie Berke and Robert Goodwin, who are deaf activists supporting the bill for deaf consumers. More information from other sources follows theirs. My DEEP apologies for not knowing how to make hyperlinks, so you’ll have to cut and paste to access the websites until I can consult with a fellow recapper who does it all the time and I’ll fix them this weekend.

HR3101 Captioning Bill

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act was introduced in Congress on June 26, 2009. This Act, among other things, will require captioning on the Internet, and video description on the Internet for the blind and visually impaired. We need help to get this bill passed because it is not easy to get a bill through Congress!

Here is what I suggest: perhaps post this to your announcement wall or board(s) where clients meet for job searches and/or classes as well as newsletters and websites. They can use to contact Representatives. We also need a similar bill introduced in the Senate, so use to contact Senators. Representatives should be asked to cosponsor the bill, and Senators should be asked to introduce a similar bill.

In addition, because in numbers there is strength, in addition to telling your clients about the bill and encouraging them to write their Representatives and Senators, you can also tell them about Caption Action 2, a grassroots Facebook effort to get this bill passed. Caption Action 2 is at . We also have a blog, , where you can download a PDF of the bill and see a countdown counter showing how much time we have left. In addition, the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT, at is working hard to get the bill passed. In fact, we only have until January 2011 to get this bill passed. After that, this bill will die.

We really need help. Most bills do not make it out of committee, and last year that is what happened to a similar bill. This year we have a second chance, and we might not get a third chance.

Thank you, in advance, for your help! This bill is really to guarantee the deaf and blind kids an accessible future on the Internet!

Jamie Berke and Robert Goodwin
Leaders, Caption Action 2

Schoolmarm Jeanne back again. Here is additional information from a couple of more websites:

Washington Watch says that “H.R. 3101 would ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to emerging Internet Protocol-based communication and video programming technologies in the 21st Century. “ The website is:

From “Day in Washington,” there is a summary of what the bill is supposed to do:

There has been significant legislation and regulation in the past to address access issues for people with disabilities to communications systems such as the telephone and television. Specifically, Section 255 of the Communications Act (47 U.S.C. §225) requires telecommunications providers and manufacturers to make their services and equipment accessible to and usable by people with disabilities if readily achievable. And Section 713 of the Communications Act (47 U.S.C. §613) which requires that video programming distributors provide closed captioning on 100 percent of new English video programming.

The problem? Today, there are web-based video services that offer television programs, movies, and web clips distributed over the Internet, but most of them do not provide closed captioning, even when the programming previously was captioned. In addition, cell phones and other mobile devices are being used more and more for communication and even entertainment. The legislation that offered protections for people with disabilities to ensure access does not cover new technologies. VoiIP and IP-based technologies are not always defined as being a telecommunications service. What that means is that they don’t fall under the access requirements in the Communications Act, and so would not be required to provide closed captions or video description.

Let me give you an example of how the law is out-of-date…the telephone. Federal law requires phones over the regular public telephone network to be hearing aid compatible. But, it is not clear whether this requirement carries over to smart phones used for communication over the Internet

So what does the bill do:

1. H.R. 3101 would require that mobile and other Internet-based telecommunications devices have accessible user interfaces, and offer people with disabilities use of a full range of text messaging and other popular services that are currently largely inaccessible;

2. Restore the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) modest video description rules and grant them the authority to expand such regulations, and require emergency announcements and similar information to be accessible to people with disabilities through audible presentation of on-screen alerts,

4. Ensure that video programming offered via the Internet will be described, and call for all devices that receive and playback video programming to employ accessible user interfaces and allow ready access to description; and

5. Strengthen consumers’ ability to enforce their rights to Communications and video accessibility through the establishment of a clearinghouse of information about service and equipment accessibility and usability, a meaningful FCC complaint process that holds industry accountable for their accessibility obligations, and judicial review of FCC action to ensure the Commission’s own accountability.

In this new era of electronic and internet-based communications, it is critical that the disability access requirements in telecommunications legislation continue to actually impact what communications systems people are actually using. All you have to do is look around a hearing room to see how prevalent mobile and web-based technology is. It is visible on buses and trains, in stores and on the streets; people are constantly using hand-held electronic devices to communicate, to access information, to interact with others and to engage in the larger world around them. The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act offers the best opportunity to expand current law and requirements to allow that same access for people with disabilities as we move to a much more digital, and mobile future.

(End of quoted material)

Schoolmarm Jeanne back for the last time. You can make a difference by writing to your Congressional delegation members and urging them to vote in favor of this access bill. It will help us, but it will help deaf and hard of hearing people, blind people and people with low vision, more than it will even help us! Thanks for taking the time to read this!


p.s. I watch a couple of TNs but rarely have time to check in with the blog, ¡discúlpenme, mis queridos/as amigos/as!


I'm not positive, but I think I figured out the hyperlinks.


Yep, you figured them out. Thanks for all this juicy info!

thanks Jeanne for the notice.

Jody :)

Julie....and I didn't even have to call you to learn how to do it!

You're both welcome. I would really like to have captions on the internet and DVD formats every time, especially the internet.


Great work, Jeanne!
I hope you read C2 at least this cngratulations and thanks to the great work you are doing to aid the world of people that need caption support. It is just terrific of you.

Taks care! I am not going to be here much for a while so I will keep in touch through e-mail and phone.
Have great summer.

Schoolmarm, as soon as I saw the title of the post I knew (hoped) it was you. You have made the information as clear as possible and this is a great forum to share what is going on. I know you can count on many of us to write our political leaders about this.

Nicely done amiga! We know you are super busy but we still miss you.

Thanks, Cheryl and Sylvia! I fully intend to write my delegation members, and may even go to see a couple of them in person. This is really important. Since I have been in the fields of blindness and deafness, these two groups of people have been two steps behind on most technology innovations. Video went from silent movies to talkies in the early part of the last century and deaf people couldn't routinely access it until 1980. That's a long lag. Blind people couldn't access silent movies, and still couldn't access the scenery and physical interactions of the talkies, only the dialogue, until the late 1990s and it is still not easy.

The internet, if all the predictions are right, is the next great technology and it would be very nice if deaf folks and blind folks didn't have to wait another 20 years until it was more accessible. I'm just saying.


Schoolmarm Jeanne, What does "Recap" mean? Can you contact me at Thanks!

You bet, Jamie! I am a long-time admirer of the information you post online! Expect an email from me.


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