A Return to Captioning of Web 2.0 Video

A few months back I wrote a post regarding the (lack of) accessibility of Web 2.0 media. That post generated a couple of helpful comments, and I’ve also had the opportunity to collect additional information. Here’s an update.

Recall that “accessible” media means that the content can be interpreted by all users. For example, a video that is captioned is accessible to viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, as well as English Language Learners. Indeed, ongoing research has shown that the use of captions can improve literacy skills, including comprehension, of lots of learners. Another example of making video accessible is known as “description.” A described video is one that is narrated for individuals who are blind or have low vision. During scenes that don’t include dialog or other audio cues, a narrator describes what is happening onscreen. Because video description (aka “audio description”) can supplement and embellish what viewers see, it is yet another literacy tool. Here’s an exemplar of a fully accessible segment of The Lion King. You’ve never experienced The Lion King like this!


You can search for more accessible DVDs on the Web. Nearly all (if not all) NOVA videos are available with captions and video descriptions. You may be surprised that some of the DVDs you are currently using are fully accessible. Start by searching the WGBH Media Access Group Accessible DVD collection. Another collection is offered by the Described and Captioned Media Program, which has a free-loan library for qualifying students.

While video description is not mandated, laws related to television closed captioning have been in existence since 1990. Those laws have not yet made the transition to the Web, but disability advocates have tried to keep pace. In fact, the Internet Captioning Forum (ICF) is a collaboration among the most popular Web media industries and the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Additionally, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, a 1998 amendment, is a motivating factor for organizations that want to compete for Federal government contracts.

Currently, two ways exist for you to get your classroom video captioned: send it out to a professional or do-it-yourself. In today’s post, I’ll describe some organizations for hire. My next post will provide a list of options for folks who are technically inclined to venture out on their own captioning experiments.

Automatic Sync Technologies (AST) offers automated captioning services for everything from videotapes to streaming media video searches (if videos are captioned, you can do text searches of them!). These folks will take your media (video, podcast, webcast…), caption it, and return it to you. Education rates are available and very, very reasonable (if you have a transcript it’s even cheaper). Turnaround times are also highly impressive. An invitation was recently distributed by MaineCITE (Maine’s AT Act project) for a free workshop delivered by an AST member to be held in Portland on September 11. The invitation is attached here mecite_invitation

The National Captioning Institute (NCI) also offers its services for your Web video.

Computer Prompting & Captioning Co (CPC) is yet another.

Heck, you can even hire an organization to transcribe a video of an event in realtime, i.e., live streaming, which is formally known as Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART). Caption First is an example of this service.

Next up: Options for creating captions yourself.

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