Monday, March 29, 2010

Captioning for a More Accessible YouTube

YouTube, a popular Google-run website where you can watch and post videos, is now offering automatic captioning for videos. Universities were the earliest partners of auto-captioning (Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, MIT, Duke, Yale, Columbia, University of New South Wales), as well as a few media publications (Demand Media, PBS, National Geographic, UCTV). As a result of this new automatic captioning service, YouTube has gained support from disability partners as well. One such organization is the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT). COAT's primary goal is to ensure that legislative and regulatory safeguards are in place so people with disabilities have access to high speed broadband, wireless, and other Internet-based technologies. Jennifer Simpson from COAT, made the following statement about the new auto-captioning feature:

“This is a huge step forward for accessibility. We applaud industry leadership such as this. We look to other companies to be as innovative in making their products and services accessible to people with disabilities.”

The accessibility of YouTube has been a concern among the disability community, especially among people who are deaf and hard of hearing. According to a Yahoo article on the topic, an employee of Google and a person with a disability advocated to achieve accessibility of the website for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

“One of the chief advocates for captioning capability at YouTube has been Vint Cerf, the Google vice president who has been described as the "Father of the Internet”. Cerf, who is hearing impaired and has been wearing hearing aids since the age of 13, made a personal appearance at the unveiling of the YouTube auto-caption features at Google's Washington offices in November”.-Yahoo, Washington (AFP)

Although there have been significant gains in making YouTube more accessible, there are still limitations. Currently, the auto-captioning service is only available in English. Also, there is a long queue to have videos that currently exist on the website captioned. Google has developed a step-by-step process on how to caption new videos posted to the website:

With the auto-captioning service now available on YouTube, doors are opening to increase the accessibility of the Internet for people with disabilities.

Have you used the YouTube auto-captioning function? If so, how well did it work? Can you think of other websites that should follow YouTube’s example? How can Google work to further improve YouTube for people with disabilities?

Written by LaCandice McCray, CFILC

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