Saturday, July 18, 2009

Captioning Display is Important, Too

Captioning display through visible CC buttons is important. It is important because having a visible CC button helps gain the acceptance of hearing people and makes it easier for deaf people too. Hearing people want to be able to turn off the captions easily. Deaf people need quick and easy access.

Current Broadcasters

How are the few broadcasters that caption online, enabling caption display?

  • Hulu - Uses Flash. When the video starts playing the commercials, there is no CC button visible. After the commercial, you can see and click the CC button. Then you have to choose "English" for it to load the subtitles. That's ok, but it is a bit of an annoyance and it does mean that the first few seconds of the actual program will be missed.
  • - Uses Flash. Has a CC button that is grayed out and turns white after you click it. The settings also let you permanently set it to show captions.
  • CNET - Uses Flash, Has a CC button that you can click.
  • Fox TV - Uses Flash. Has a CC button that displays to the left of the player screen.
  • NBC TV - Uses Flash. Has a CC button at bottom of screen.

One of the most commonly used players is the Brightcove player (a type of Flash player), which does not have a visible CC button although the player IS capable of displaying closed captions, as explained on their support forum. It is important to get Brightcove to add a CC button to their standard player templates, because if you visit the websites of the broadcasters who do not caption, most of them are using Brightcove. As far as we can tell from the images on the Brightcove standard player templates page, the standard player does not come with a CC button. Caption Action 2 has an email in to Brightcove support asking if they will add a CC button to their standard player templates.

Why is it so important to get Brightcove to upgrade the standard player to add a standard CC button? It is important because as stated above, having a standard CC button benefits both deaf and hearing people. Plus, if the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 passes, we do not want the broadcasters to have any excuse to ask for a delay in implementing captioning requirements. Caption Action 2's concern is that broadcasters could use the lack of a CC button on the Brightcove player as an excuse to ask for more time.

A RealPlayer Story

Back in 1998 to 1999, when the Internet was still young, Jamie had a contract job with a very interesting task: evaluating new media technology. One of Jamie's assignments was to evaluate new internet media players. Jamie found that while the latest version of the Windows Media Player did have closed caption display capability, the then-beta version of the RealPlayer did not have the same capability. Knowing that the official version of the RealPlayer would soon be out, Jamie knew she had to take action.

Jamie made several long-distance calls to the headquarters of Real Media. She actually was able to talk to the developer team. When Jamie asked that the final version of the Real Player include captioning display capability, the developers told her that it was too close to the official release date. Jamie doesn't remember clearly anymore what she said in response to that, as it was over 10 years ago, but she thinks she remembers that she continued to press them to have captioning display capability and may have even threatened to spread the word in the deaf and hard of hearing community if the final version came out without closed captioning display.

Jamie won. The final version of the RealPlayer came out with closed captioning display.

(Note: Was this RealPlayer 8 or RealOne v1 or v2?)


  1. One annoying thing about ABC's player that probably ought to be mentioned is that the captions won't display in full-screen mode. This has never made much sense to me.

  2. Hi Jamie,

    You should check out FeedRoom too. We take a it several steps further, offering the only fully 508 compliant online video solution.

    Happy to chat any time about what that means, why we think it's important and why we stand behind HR3101.

    Andrew Baisley
    Sales Engineer, FeedRoom

  3. I usually pass up video news for print news because I have to increase the sound so loud that it becomes uncomfortable. I will look for those that are captioned.

  4. Actually, allows you to save the closed-captioning functionality under "Video Settings" under the "Settings" tab in your "Profile". Just check the box that says "Closed-Captioning" under "Video Settings", and Hulu will automatically turn on closed-captioning if available. I've never missed the beginnings of any episodes thanks to this setting.