Friday, November 27, 2009

Will HR 3101 Create Jobs?

At a time when unemployment is still high, a potential selling point for HR 3101 when you contact your Representatives is job creation. As already stated before, the Google/YouTube automatic captions are imperfect, unedited captions. The quality is not the same as what you have come to expect when watching television shows. When you watch the news live on television, the captions are produced by a professionally skilled real-time captioner. If HR 3101 passes, it could mean an increase in captioning jobs, for both offline pre-recorded programming and live programming.

So if you point out the potential of HR 3101 to create jobs to your Congressional representatives, that could be the swing factor that pushes some of them towards supporting the bill. We don't know how many jobs could be created. Given that we are talking about the Internet, and some programming may be produced that is exclusive to the Internet, it could be a lot of jobs! Most of the caption-producing jobs will go to hearing people, but perhaps some deaf and hard of hearing people will also find other employment at captioning service providers that have to increase their hiring to meet rising demand.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HR 3101 Gets Its 20th Cosponsor!

Jamie was hoping her own representative would be cosponsor #20, but Representative Emmanuel Cleaver, II (D-Missouri) beat him to it! Jamie got an email today from a legislative assistant in Cleaver's office that said simply, "Thank you for stopping by our office yesterday to bring this bill to my attention. Rep. Cleaver has signed on." That was fast. Jamie hadn't even sent a follow-up email yet. Welcome to the growing HR 3101 club, Rep. Cleaver!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Caption Action 2's Latest Visit to Capitol Hill

Today Jamie made her last visit to Capitol Hill - for the House side. (Senate side is next once we have a Senate version of HR 3101). Things were quiet because Congress is not in session until December. The staff was hard (?) at work though - Jamie noticed at least a few "while the cat's away, the mice will play" parties.

Jamie visited the offices of 88 Congressmen and Congresswomen, plus had a meeting with her own representative's legislative director. The meeting with the legislative director went very well! Jamie left with the hopeful impression that her own representative would support HR 3101 soon. The LD had several questions about HR 3101, not all of which Jamie was able to answer. For the ones she was not able to answer, she referred him to the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology.

In another office, the staff person asked, "Why HR 3101? What about Google and YouTube captions?" That led to Jamie sitting next to the staff person to explain that we still need HR 3101 because as great as it is that Google is introducing automatic captioning, those captions are not the same quality as the captions we are used to on television and DVD. Google's captions are imperfect machine generated captions; the ones we are used to on television and DVD have been carefully produced and edited, with the exception of live captioning. But even the live captioning is done by professional real-time captioners.

This being Capitol Hill, Jamie did have one surprise. In the office of Representative Debbie Halvorson (Illinois), the young staffer sitting at the desk began to use sign language with her. It was fairly fluent sign language, and Jamie exclaimed, "You know sign language!" He called someone over, and another young staffer came over to talk to Jamie, signing even more fluently. He had deaf parents! Jamie had bumped into an adult child of deaf parents, a CODA! He did not know about HR 3101, and asked Jamie to send him a PDF of the SIGNews November article on HR 3101. You just never know where you will discover a "deaf connection!"

In fact, this time, it was the SIGNews article that impressed the Hill staff. When Jamie displayed her copy of SIGNews to Hill staff, more often than not the reaction was "Wow!" The big headline made them realize just how significant HR 3101 is.

Below is a list of Representatives' offices that Jamie visited today, by state. If your representative is on this list, please follow up with a call or email:

Young, Don Alaska
Faleomavaega, Eni American Samoa
Flake, Jeff Arizona
Snyder, Vic Arkansas
Berman, Howard California
Chu, Judy California
Dreier, David California
Harman, Jane California
Herger, Wally California
Lewis, Jerry California
Matsui, Doris California
Miller, George California
Nunes, Devin California
Pelosi, Nancy California
Radanovich, George California
Thompson, Mike California
Waxman, Henry California
DeLauro, Rosa Connecticut
Kosmas, Suzanne Florida
Meek, Kendrick Florida
Posey, Bill Florida
Young, CW Bill Florida
Bishop, Sanford Georgia
Deal, Nathan Georgia
Linder, John Georgia
Price, Tom Georgia
Biggert, Judy Illinois
Costello, Jerry Illinois
Davis, Danny Illinois
Halvorson, Debbie Illinois
Jackson Jr., Jesse Illinois
Kirk, Mark Illinois
Manzullo, Donald Illinois
Rush, Bobby Illinois
Braley, Bruce Iowa
Latham, Tom Iowa
Jenkins, Lynn Kansas
Rogers, Harold Kentucky
Whitfield, Ed Kentucky
Cao, Joseph Louisiana
Fleming, John Louisiana
Bartlett, Roscoe Maryland
Neal, Richard Massachusetts
Oberstar, James Minnesota
Paulson, Erik Minnesota
Peterson, Collin (became a cosponsor!)
Minnesota
Clay, William Missouri
Cleaver, Emmanuel (became a cosponsor!)
Missouri
Skelton, Ike Missouri
Heller, Dean Nevada
Pallone Jr., Frank New Jersey
Sires, Albio New Jersey
Teague, Harry New Mexico
Arcuri, Michael New York
Clarke, Yvette New York
Crowley, Joseph New York
Engel, Eliot New York
Tonko, Paul New York
Price, David North Carolina
Sablan, Gregorio Northern Mariana Islands
Boehner, John Ohio
Cole, Tom Oklahoma
Defazio, Peter Oregon
Dent, Charles Pennsylvania
Holden, Tim Pennsylvania
Murtha, John Pennsylvania
Sestak, Joe Pennsylvania
Shuster, Bill Pennsylvania
Thompson, Glen Pennsylvania
Clyburn, James South Carolina
Cohen Steve Tennessee
Duncan, John Tennessee
Hall, Ralph Texas
Hensarling, Jeb Texas
Jackson Lee, Sheila Texas
Johnson, Eddie Bernice Texas
Marchant, Kenny Texas
McCaul, Michael Texas
Ortiz, Solomon Texas
Smith, Lamar Texas
Thornberry, Mac Texas
Chaffetz, Jason Utah
Matheson, Jim Utah (return visit)
Wolf, Frank Virginia
McDermott, Jim Washington
Smith, Adam Washington
Obey, David Wisconsin
Lummis, Cynthia Wyoming

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Maine Representative Becomes 19th Cosponsor

Caption Action 2 just learned this morning that HR3101 got its 19th cosponsor!

Let's welcome from Maine, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-1)!

Thanks to the anonymous commenter in the previous post for alerting us!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cosponsor 18 - Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Caption Action 2 just learned that we got our 18th HR3101 cosponsor. Let us welcome Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-3)!

We're doing good so far, but we still have a long ways to go.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Two Ladies - 1 Fully Grown/1 Not Fully Grown - Make Strides on HR 3101

Recently, two deaf ladies with a huge stake in the matter, did their parts for HR 3101. One lady is fully grown up, the other lady is not quite fully grown up yet. Both of them were dynamic in their accomplishments.

Marlee Matlin

The fully grown up deaf lady is Marlee Matlin.

Marlee Matlin and Ed Markey
Marlee spent the entire day of November 5 visiting key offices on Capitol Hill in her role as National Association of the Deaf spokesperson for accessible broadband services and internet media. Marlee connected with, among others, the office of Representative Rick Boucher, the chairperson of the key House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. She also met with key people in the Senate (remember a Senate version of HR 3101 is in the works). Details are in this illustrated NAD report. This report also includes a link to a YouTube video excerpt of the FCC hearing with only Marlee's testimony, plus a transcript.

Jehanne

Marlee took a few minutes to meet with Jehanne, a young deaf vlogger who is certain to get the job of the SIGNews editor when she grows up. Jehanne taped a captioned interview with Marlee.

Jehanne and Marlee
During this interview, they discuss what young deaf and hard of hearing people like Jehanne (and hearing friends) can do to help get HR 3101 passed! As it turns out, according to Marlee, they can do plenty to help!

In the near future, Caption Action 2 will have some exciting news to report. For now...mum's the word.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Broadband for America Blog Post!

Today Caption Action 2 had its first-ever guest blog, on the Broadband for America website! What is Broadband for America? It is a coalition of companies and organizations focused on promoting and increasing the availability of broadband. Jamie met a representative from Broadband for America at the recent Federal Communications Commission field hearing on broadband access for people with disabilities. She made contact with them afterwards, and the happy result is the blog post below. (The same blog is on the Broadband for America website, but we are reprinting it here.)

As the FCC gathers recommendations for a national broadband plan, it faces a historic opportunity to help improve the lives of all deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

A recent field hearing on broadband access for people with disabilities outlined several of the necessary improvements an effective national broadband plan could have for people with disabilities, from improved closed captioning services to improved emergency services like 911.

Some of the Benefits of Broadband for People With Disabilities:

1. Access to high speed Internet provides access to goods and services that people with disabilities would otherwise face obstacles in obtaining.

2. In addition to increased commercial opportunities, broadband provides educational opportunities, including the option of attending distance-learning courses.

3. Broadband increases access to job opportunities for the disabled, particularly jobs that would otherwise require difficult or unnecessary commuting as part of the job search and application process.

4. Broadband permits users of Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) to use Video Relay Services (VRS) to communicate more easily with voice telephone users.

One broadband access issue specific to deaf and hard of hearing people is closed captioning. For example, section 508 requires accessibility of government web video, but it is not unusual to come across a government web video that is not captioned. In fact, YouTube has a US Government section, http://www.youtube.com/usgovernment. Many of the videos there are not captioned.

Another issue is that the internet and regular television are merging. This means that internet television needs to be captioned just like regular television. Captioning on the internet is also important for educational access. Without captions on the internet, deaf and hard of hearing people miss out on news, entertainment, and educational opportunities.

Jamie Berke is a leader of Caption Action 2, a cause on Facebook.

Update: Tonight Caption Action 2 checked YouTube/USGovernment and found a big increase in captioned video. There is still some not captioned on the 86 channels in YouTube/USGovernment (so far, found 19 that are not captioning or caption very little), but the uncaptioned portion is getting smaller and smaller, probably because of section 508.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

HR 3101 Could Help Oral Deaf - Signing Deaf Friends!

Recently, there has been some opposition in the deaf community to section 103 in HR 3101. Caption Action 2 will try to explain it, using a combination of resources.

Exact Language from HR 3101

SEC. 103. RELAY SERVICES. (a) DEFINITION.—Paragraph (3) of section 225(a) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 225(a)(3)) is amended to read as follows: ‘‘(3) TELECOMMUNICATIONS RELAY SERVICES.—The term ‘telecommunications relay services’ means telephone transmission that provides the ability for an individual who is deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or who has a speech disability to engage in communication by wire or radio with one or more individuals, in a manner that is functionally equivalent to the ability of a hearing individual who does not have a speech disability to communicate using voice communication services by wire or radio.’’.
What Does That Mean?

The above language is vague, which may be part of the reason for the opposition by some people. As Kelby Brick explained on Twitter, it means that deaf people who use sign language would be able to use relay services to communicate with non-signing deaf people. Kelby provided further information to clarify why this provision was added to HR 3101. He pointed to a PDF of Consumer Groups’ Expectations of Responsibilities and Goals for the Disability Rights Office (DRO) Federal Communications Commission, which has the following language:

"Grant the pending petition to clarify that TRS includes communications between and among people with disabilities and not only communications between an individual with a disability and one without a disability"

The Petition to the FCC

What petition is this language referring to? Again Kelby pointed to the original source, a petition to the FCC from January 28, 2009, Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities, CG Docket No. 03-123. This is a 25-page document that asks that the definition of a relay service be expanded to include calls made with a combination of multiple communication assistants and technologies (e.g. captioned telephone, video relay, etc), because section 225 of the Communications Act requires "relay services that are the functional equivalent of traditional voice services provided to hearing users." Page 9 states "Although VRS now appears to be the preferred mode of communication for many former TTY users who sign, millions of Americans with hearing loss must still rely on text-based communication."

More Interaction Between ASL Deaf and Oral Deaf

In other words, while many deaf people use sign language video relay services, what about those deaf and hard of hearing people who do not use sign language or who do not know sign language? The days when everyone used TTYs are gone! What if a non-signing deaf person wants to contact a signing deaf person without using instant messaging or email? This provision of HR 3101 could encourage friendships between oral and signing deaf people! Or what if someone from Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf wants to collaborate with someone at the National Association of the Deaf?

Not a Sunny Day Online for Deaf Kids

Can you tell me how to get...
How to get to Sesame Street?

40 years ago two deaf five year olds could not watch Sesame Street because closed captioning did not exist yet. Today it is 40 years later and today's deaf five year olds can not watch Sesame Street online. How do you think Bert and Ernie feel about that? The Cookie Monster would probably chomp up the page in frustration.

The Sesame Street website at PBS does not have captions on its videos for children. See for yourself at http://pbskids.org/sesame/#/videos. Ironic isn't it? A show that purports to be open and accessible to all children regardless of race or disability does not caption its online videos.

Forty years later, Sesame Street should be ashamed of itself. Get HR 3101 passed so another generation of deaf and hard of hearing kids does not have to miss out on Big Bird, Ernie, and Oscar online!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Only Half Access to Cable Without HR 3101

How people get their cable TV is going to change very soon - and deaf and hard of hearing viewers are at risk for only getting half the access to what they pay for. Comcast is going to offer their cable programming online starting in December. (Time Warner, Verizon, and DirecTV are planning to do the same. Apple plans a TV service via iTunes) Hearing people will pay one fee and for that one fee, have the choice of watching their cable either on regular television or on the Internet. Deaf people? For now, outta luck, based on what Rosaline Crawford, Director of the Law and Advocacy Center at the National Association of the Deaf, said.

Jamie asked:
"There is a clear trend towards cable TV companies offering access to cable programming via the Internet. People can pay for a cable subscription, then view it on either Internet or regular TV. My question is, when the cable programming is shown on the Internet, are the captions shown too? In other words, do the line 21 captions carry through to the Internet?"

Rosaline's response:
"Today, most TV video programming distributed over the Internet does not have closed captions. That's one of the reasons why we need to get H.R. 3101 passed. When passed, H.R. 3101 will ensure that broadcasters and "multichannel video programming distributors" (such as cable and satellite TV companies) will provide closed captions for the video programming they distribute over the Internet.

How those closed captions will be transmitted over the Internet is a question best addressed by people with technical expertise. As I understand it, the caption codes transmitted for decoding and display on TVs (called "line 21 captions") need to be reconfigured when a program is distributed over the Internet. In other words, Internet caption technology is not the same as TV "line 21 caption" technology. There are many groups and people working to develop a standard for Internet captions. It also makes sense that this new standard for Internet captions will build on and take advantage of existing "line 21 captions," so the entire process of producing captions does not need to be repeated for TV programs redistributed over the Internet.

The National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM at WGBH) spearheaded a group of Internet service providers to address Internet captioning. See http://ncam.wgbh.org/news/icf.html. Recently, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) established a working group to create an industry standard for Internet captioning. See http://www.coataccess.org/node/3469. I have heard that the SMPTE standard may be established by the end of this year; they are very close to finishing. Also recently, NCAM at WGBH demonstrated that real-time captions for TV could be multi-purposed for a real-time simultaneous webcast. See http://www.coataccess.org/node/4895.

What I do know is that Internet captioning is possible. That is a fact demonstrated every day on many websites -- even YouTube. Having a standard for Internet captioning will just make it easier for everyone in the chain of video programming -- from production to distribution -- to provide captions."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rep. Andre Carson Becomes Cosponsor 17!

Cosponsor number seventeen just signed on! It's Indiana Representative Andre Carson (D-7).

No Republicans yet. Please do your part if your rep is Republican.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Guam Representative Becomes Cosponsor 16!

Just when Caption Action 2 gets the word about our fifteenth cosponsor, a sixteenth comes on!

Let us welcome Guam Representative Madeleine Bordallo (D).

Now we have surpassed the total number of cosponsors for last year's failed bill! Last year's failed bill had only 15 cosponsors. This year's bill has 16 so far!

As said before, we still need Republicans.

DC Representative Becomes 15th Cosponsor!

Let us welcome District of Columbia Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) as our fifteenth HR 3101 cosponsor!

Caption Action 2 still needs Republican cosponsors. This is another reason to contact your rep if he/she is Republican. Check the blogroll for Congressional staff contacts and how to find your representative including this post on instructions on how to find and write your representative.