Friday, September 4, 2009

The Caption Conundrum: Problem and Solution

No captions on Internet video? Ratz!

No captions on in flight video? Hmph!
Remote control hell setting up captions? Arrgh!
Frustrating right?

The answer to all these problems lies in a bill currently under consideration in the House of Representatives. The Bill is H.R. 3101 - The 21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act of 2009. It's not yet a law so it needs your support to make it happen!

The main benefit of the proposed law is that it improves closed caption access for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The captioning provisions are as follows:
a. Captioning for All devices regardless of size.
Current law mandates closed captioning for devices with screen sizes 13" and up. The proposed law would include *all* devices regardless of size.
b. Caption controls - must be easy to setup.
The proposed law would require manufactures to simplify the process for setting up captions by using either a direct remote control button or a first level menu option.
c. Internet captioning for all video content.
The proposed law would require captioning for the following video content on the internet:
1. Preproduced shows
2. Live broadcasts
3. Cable/Satellite programming
However, consumer produced footage
(i.e. YouTube postings) would be
exempt from this requirement.
A new law is need to adapt to current technology. The previous law dealing with captioning technology was written in 1990. Since then, technology has evolved significantly. For example:

Back in 1990, Internet video was not possible due to the Internet's slow transmission speeds (56kbs). As of 2008, 57% of all households had a high speed broadband internet connection (256kbs) allowing video to be seen via the web.**

With the advent of PDAs, Blackberries, iPhones, iTouch and other devices, the current law is outdated. New provisions are necessary to make captions available on smaller screens such as in flight LCDs on airplanes.

In the past, captioning required a lot of time and money. With improvements in voice recognition technologies, the process has become automated and much cheaper. Video content creators can no longer declare undue burden. There are no more excuses.

With the explosion of video content on the internet, many have posted university lectures for all to see. Sites like iTunesU make it possible to learn about everything from Anthropology to Zoology. Without captioning this content is not accessible to the Deaf. An updated law would change that.

Right now H.R. 3101 is still in a House Committee awaiting approval to move to the full House. But without support, the bill will stay in Committee and go no where!

How can you support this bill?
1. Contact Congress
Contact your local House of Representatives Congressman.
Write! Email! Fax!

Let him/her know that you support this bill and want to see it passed!
2. Support COAT
The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology is working hard to get this bill passed. They need your support. This organization has over 230 organizations working together to ensure accessible technology. Their lobbying efforts are helping Congress recognize the need to develop new laws to accommodate existing technologies.
Visit them at!
3. Tell your friends! Get the word out!
Tell your friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, aunts, uncles, dogs, cats and birds! The more people know about this bill the more voices we can get to Congress! This bill needs your support!
Help bring captioning into the 21st Century!

**U.S. data from Pew Internet & American Life Project Home Broadband Adoption 2007 and 2008, and U.S. Census for October 2007 data, as reported in NTIA 2008.


  1. Don't forget that Caption Action 2 is also working towards getting HR3101 passed. It takes everyone's help to do so. We've got a blog and a Facebook cause. There's also links in both for COAT and writing your Senator/Representative.

  2. You're absolutely right! Thanks for adding the links!

  3. Also, check the video. It says HR3103 rather than HR3101. That may be minor, but it can confuse people out there til they read the blog text.

  4. Correction: The bill is HR 3101 *not* HR 3103!

    Grr... apparently my double checking needed a triple check. I thought I caught all the errors. I hope this doesn't cause too much confusion.