Sunday, September 27, 2009

If HR 3101 Does Not Pass...An Unpleasant Future

What will the future be like for deaf and hard of hearing people in a world that is very dependent on the Internet if HR 3101 does not pass? Caption Action 2 imagined the unpleasant future that is in store for deaf and hard of hearing people if HR 3101 does not pass. Some of what is imagined is already reality!

Scenario 1: The Commute

You are on your way to work on the subway system. Suddenly, hot news breaks! All around you, people are whipping out their personal devices and watching video because things are happening right now! It is coverage of a live car chase in Los Angeles, as police chase the most-wanted sex offender in Los Angeles, who has a kidnapped child in his car! The hearing people are able to follow the moment-by-moment live video coverage. You? You are limited to what information you can get from text news reports, which lag behind the live television reporting.

Scenario 2: At Work

Now you have arrived at work. The live car chase is still happening in Los Angeles! Everyone at the office is watching it on their computers. The boss normally does not permit watching of internet video during work hours, but in this case the boss is overlooking it because the boss is watching the news, too! You? You are still limited to what information you can get from the text news reports.

Scenario 3: The Weekend Party

Now it is the weekend. You and your hearing partner are at a party that is mostly hearing people. The hearing people are chatting about the latest original webisodes on Internet television. Those webisodes are not captioned. So you and the few other deaf and hard of hearing people at the party stand around together, left out of the conversation.

Scenario 4: Your Child's School

On Monday, you have an appointment with the teacher at your child's school to discuss your hearing child's progress. The teacher says, "The class is going to be watching this programming from the History Channel online during History class. Students will be tested on what they learn from this Internet video. " This means you are not going to be able to help your child study because you can't watch the video yourself!

Your other appointment is with the teacher for your deaf child, who attends a mainstream public school program. The teacher there says, "the class is going to be watching this programming from the Discovery Channel in Science class. Unfortunately, the Discovery Channel does not caption its online video programs. All we can do is give your child a vocabulary list and you and your child will have to do extra work, looking up the meaning of the words."

Scenario 4: Back Home

Back home after meeting with your children's teachers, you do a quick check of your email before heading out to the gym. There is a frantic message from your deaf teenager who is attending a prestigious college. "Mom!!! The professor is using internet video to teach this stuff!! It is not covered in the textbook and the video has no captions!! What can I do??" Arrghh. You shoot back an email to your college student, "Quick, ask the professor if he can refer you to an alternative captioned DVD in the college library!"

Scenario 5: The Gym

Now you really need to work off some steam in the gym before going to your mother's for dinner. The gym has brand-new exercise bikes with built-in internet TV! Fabulous. You start working out, and turn on the internet TV, only to captions. All around you, people are choosing the channels they want to watch. You? You are limited to whatever is showing on the wall television.

Scenario 6: At Mom's for Dinner

In your mother's kitchen for dinner, Grandma exclaims, "Come look at my new refrigerator!" As Grandma proudly shows off her new top of the line refrigerator, you notice that it has a built-in television screen. Yes, for internet television! Grandma tunes in to a program to watch while she makes dinner. Due to the lack of captions, you can't discuss the program with Grandma while she makes dinner.

Scenario 7: Before Bedtime

Before bedtime, your hearing child enjoys watching exclusive internet video on the Cartoon Network web site, or on the Nickelodeon web site. Soon, your deaf child comes crying to you, "Mom!! It is not fair!!! Joey gets to watch whatever he wants on the web, and I can't!!"

Sigh. You must comfort your deaf child. Taking her into your arms, you give her a hug and say, "I know, dear. It is unfair. The problem is that back in 2009, there was a bill in Congress that would have made sure you were able to watch the same shows as Joey. But not enough deaf and hard of hearing people contacted their Congressmen. So the bill, called the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, did not pass. So today, you can't watch what you want online."


  1. This should make all d/Deaf people think. Who among us isn't annoyed every time we see uncaptioned videos in the Internet?

    We have to get the government involved...Big Business has never paid attention to the accessibility needs we have without Feds sitting on their back.

  2. Interesting blog, Jamie! You've got some great examples here!

    However, Scenario 4 would be illegal under both the ADA and perhaps Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The school is required to provide access to students with disabilities. The school's job would be made MUCH harder, however, if Internet videos aren't accessible, so lack of access has a really negative and unwelcome effect on the public school system and colleges and universities. Passage of HR 3101 would help all these entities function at a lower cost, which would benefit all of us.

    To be candid, I wish you had a different example in Scenarios 1 & 2 of a video that would be much more important for everyone to follow but yet which wasn't required to be completely visually accessible under current captioning laws. An example might be a complex discussion on TV about how to deal with an urgent crisis in the area, like if you've been exposed to a toxic cloud of gas, and which is captioned on TV but not on cell phones (which aren't required to have captioning). If you were in your car exposed to the gas and stuck in traffic, you wouldn't have access from media to any information about what to do about that. If you're trying to avoid a hurricane and it turns out the hurricane is now headed towards the area you're driving towards, you need access to that information as well. (Such information is often provided on radio but we can't hear that.)