SEATTLE - Most web sites that feature videos do not offer closed
captioning, although a bill in Congress would require it. In Seattle,
Thomas Verdos, who has had a hearing impairment since birth, says
captions make all the difference in understanding the content of the
site or program.
"You might compare it to watching television with the sound off. You
don't get the story line, nothing's humorous, if you don't have the
volume high enough to hear what's being said. Most people don't think
about it - they don't have to think about it."
Verdos thinks the recent announcement from Google that automatic
caption capability is being added to videos on some YouTube sites is a
step in the right direction. In the meantime, he advises anyone who
really wants to get their message across in an online video to pay
close attention to both sound and picture quality.
The bill is HR 3101, the "21st Century Communications and Video
Accessibility Act of 2009." It has 25 co-sponsors, but none represent
As more people shift to the Internet to view their news and
entertainment, the lack of captioning becomes a greater concern,
according to Kerry Malak with the Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
"Most of the online TV content is not captioned at all yet either,
which is a big problem, because you are used to seeing that on your TV."
Google's audio engineers say background noise and strong accents pose a
challenge to creating precise captions from the spoken word, but they
expect voice recognition technology to continue to improve. More than
10 million Americans have some form of hearing loss, and Malak says
that number is expected to grow as Baby Boomers age, which means high
demand for quality closed-captioning systems.