Videos, Audios, & Podcasts: Read My Ears
One of the beauties of working online for me, as a deaf person, is the ease of written communication as opposed to a world of telephones and lipreading. Sharing information via blogs, email, and chatting means I miss nothing and am on a level playing field. I’m not expending more time and energy on communication than anyone else. Lipreading and trying to piece together fragments of verbal information into a sensible whole is exhausting and nearly always inaccurate and confusing. There’s nothing minimalist or simple about it, that’s for sure.
In the past few weeks I have noticed an alarming uptick in the number of blog posts which are in the form of videos. Many of the bloggers I follow offer video courses or webinars or masterclasses in real time, some free, some for membership only–none of which are captioned, and very very few have transcripts available even a week afterward. As a result, it is Access Denied for the hearing-impaired. In my personal experience, I need to give thumbs-up to Chris Guillebeau, who has managed to provide transcripts of darn near every single interview in his Empire Building Kit (non-affiliate link) and other offerings.
Lack of transcripts is particularly sad, because it means the blogger/businessperson hasn’t considered it as a valuable product, regardless of accessibility issues–transcripts are a read-anywhere, anytime part of an educational or service package. Not making scripts or transcripts available also implies that the blogger/businessperson is winging it with the content, a casualness of approach that is a real disservice to both the business and the customers. Captioning videos, by contrast, is something that can only be done after the fact and specifically for accessibility. But there’s another side to accessibility other than fairness to the handicapped minority–machine captioning can also translate speech into other languages, increasing one’s readership and customer base.
For example, take a look at this from YouTube:
The machine-captioning technology is not perfect, and in fact it’s hilarious when the resulting captions create utter nonsense. But it is often uncannily accurate, especially when used by speakers who are used to Google Voice. There is general consensus in the tech community that the more people use it, the better it will get, and the faster it will get better. If you have a Google Voice number, you might be able to try out their speech-recognition software by leaving yourself a long voicemail message, and see how it comes up. With a bit of practice most people can achieve a respectable level of accuracy.
The deaf and others who require text for whatever reason (neurological problems, connection problems,etc.) cannot yet demand that all material be accessible instantly, because it still takes more than a little extra effort or expense to make it accessible. If you’ve ever tried to painstakingly type captions or text into a YouTube video, you know it’s not something which is done quickly. Transcripts are generally easier, and even in the form of outlines can still be useful, but then, too, there is the time element or the expense of hiring help. Information cannot be withheld from the larger hearing population because of the difficulty or time needed to provide transcripts or captions for others. This is where the choice of original format comes in–those who are choosing the video and audio format seem content to leave it at that.
It would be a good thing if the forward-thinking blogosphere would keep accesibility in mind and not force the disabled back into an information ghetto.
Check out my other blog: Minimalist Cooking