Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shapiro's Words Belong Where the Sun Don't Shine

Today at the HR 3101 hearing, the speaker most opposed to the bill was Gary Shapiro (, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association. Most of the media coverage focused on Shapiro. Although speakers Sergeant Jesse Acosta (American Council of the Blind) and Lise Hamlin (Hearing Loss Association of America) made some powerful statements, they were either barely mentioned or not mentioned at all, by the media.

Mr. Shapiro made so many wrong statements that it would be difficult to address them all in just one blog post. This is the first of a series of blog posts examining - actually, tearing apart - Mr. Shapiro's words. Let's begin with what he said regarding "undue burden," as quoted in Broadcasting and Cable:
These technologies have a shelf life of two or three years at the max and you have to respond quickly. This would put a choke collar on innovation.
Mr. Shapiro, that is actually why we need HR 3101! If technology keeps changing at breakneck speed, without requiring accessibility to be built-in, deaf, hard of hearing, and blind people will be left out again, and again, and again!

A friend who saw that statement by Mr. Shapiro sarcastically told Caption Action 2, "Why build elevators or ramps for handicapped? The building only might be there for 50 years."

Furthermore, requiring accessibility will not stifle innovation. If companies want to make money, they will keep innovating! Did requiring the closed caption decoder chip in all television screens 13 inches or larger stifle innovation in the television industry? We think not!

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Help ensure that the new Facebook Twilight Series has captions, and help get Starz to caption its YouTube channel! Join Caption Action 2 on Facebook,!


  1. I'll bet that if Gary Shapiro had a deaf child, his mind would change in a heartbeat after seeing the amount of online media & information that is inaccessible to the deaf.

  2. Jamie,

    Thank you for focuing on the substance of what I said.

    We invented closed captioning (the concept of line 21 field two)and we presented it to Congress. Just as with this proposal we suggested changes in legilsation so that it could be implemented in a way that did not favor one patent owner, had flexibility allowing competition and allows innovation. The captioning TV mandate was manageable as it was a single disability access solution for a single product.

    The legilation we are having trouble with requires every new product and service to have every feature accessible by every person with every type of phsyical or mental disability unless after investing in the product or service the innovator can prove to the government that there is an "undue burden". The undue burden requirements themselves require a substantial financial time and legal investment to prove. This means innovators can not build new products as they don't know what differnet requirements they must meet or how they can ex post facto prove they shouldn't have to meet them.

    Building to unknown and unknowable standards is impossible - I am sure you would agree.

    If we can focus on specific disabilities, specific products and services and alternative solutions I think we can achieve what you want.

    Gary Shapiro

  3. I have a question for you Mr. Shapiro, when you say innovation leads to standards for accessibility? Do you mean profit comes first when it comes to setting standards for accessibility? We have been waiting only to know that devices like iPhone, Silverlight, iTunes etc already comes with captioning enabled. We are questioning on why isn't the media providing captioning on their format since most device already has captioning enabled?

    You say, "Building to unknown and unknowable standards is impossible" clearly demonstrates that you do not know what technology or device is capable of. Just take a look at - they were able to provide captioning and you say impossible? I am even surprised that you represent CEA.

    For all of us, it is an embarrassment to know a person like you to say the word, "IMPOSSIBLE". Instead since we, the disabled, break barriers everyday by showing the "POSSIBLE" only to know people like you put up barriers when you say such things?

  4. I call this DISCRIMINATION! What Gary says is so WRONG! All Captions should be approved for all deaf individuals and all deafs should be treated EQUAL as the rest of us! I won't ever like this guy at all if he doesn't get it approved!!

  5. I may be a little technical here, but most captioning technologies other than analog televisions utilizes XML (or XML-like) format and it is ubiquitous across all platforms whether it is mobile or not.

    The TECHNOLOGY is there, corporations just chose to take the easy way out and not caption static content. (Live streaming is another matter)

  6. Mr. Shapiro - your heart may beat for equal rights - we hope - please listen to it more.
    Your remarks in the D.C. editorial and here again are not accurate - this legislation is for full equal rights primarily for people without hearing and without vision. There are so many millions of us in the world, it's good business also.
    Your wife is a physician, who, just guessing, may repair damaged retina. There is NO cure for dead hearing cells - not hearing aids, not implants. There is no cure for blindness, though we are told text to speech is easier to achieve. Please get on the right side of this, and others will follow you.

  7. Try wearing cotton balls in your ears 24/7 and continue on with your daily life. Take note of what so simple little things in daily routine is different and harder while wearing the cotton balls. Do not take out the cotton balls if uncomfortable. We do not have the ability to take the cotton balls out of our ears to be able to understand and go about in daily life. Every moment is a struggle since we have to fight for equal access every second. We do not have the ability to just say go to the movies and enjoy the show without wondering what they are talking about or what song is playing. I grew up in hearing family constantly asking what was being said or going on to try and understand what was so funny or sad in the movie or tv show....Imagine the frusteration and distruption of family time when one is always asking questions about conversations and family members having to interpret what is going on again to bring us up to speed in the conversation. Even trying to find a job that is accomdating for us. We do not live in a world that we can achieve anything we dream about. I had wished to join the miltiary with my best friend and since they need all senses in working order, I was not able to join. Same for firefighting, police, or anything that relies on hearing mostly for quick action and response. We also have to request not to sit in the emergency exit seats on the plane due to the fact we can not hear orders from captain in the event of an emergency. There are those of us that have to ask someone to repeat what was announced on the speaker if the captain was speaking over speakers on plane. What about going to the Post Office to pick up mail or send a package to the front desk. Most have to try and write and communicate what needs to be done with the package. There are those of us that wish to be able to have options in life such as equal access to multiple schools, colleges, universities, job selection, etc.. Try thinking and put yourself in our shoes for a week or a month before saying no to something that would include us Deaf/HOH in all forms of technology and communications. Thank you for your time with this message.

  8. Get with it, lots of people don't have audio or are hard of hearing making it impossible to view these sites...please support captioned internet.

  9. What a well said comment. You could be a spokesman for the Deaf/HOH community. Captioning has been a God send for me and my HOH friends. We need the support of everyone to ensure that our needs are being met. I notice only on Representative from NJ has signed on, that is disappointing since we recently passed the bill to provide some relief for children with hearing loss in the form of tax credits for expenses for hearing aids. Thank you again for your thorough and insightful comment. Couldn't have said it better.

  10. Huh...Shapiro said they invented closed captioning, then turned around and claimed that the ever-changing technology is an innovation killer and therefore impossible to keep it up by providing accessible by every person with every type of phsyical or mental disability . But how is it stifling innovation? Look at the newest iPhone - they came up with a way for people to communicate to each via videos . Now that's innovation. Mr. Shapiro....Never, never say impossible. It CAN be done! Nobody have the right to limit accessibilities for all people. If it can be done, it certain can be done!

  11. These are all heart felt comments and I cannot help be touched by many of them. But all ignore the fact that the proposed legislation is not just about deaf people but rquires that every feature be designed and built so every person with every disability - physical and mental- can receive it. This is asking someone to build the unknown and the unknowable and should not be part of the law.

    As to accessibility for the deaf there shouldn't be only one way to get the desired result. Captioning succeeded as we worked with constituencies to createoptions allowing different fonts, scrolling, different placemnt in the screen. Why not same options here?

    I understand the desire for acccess but am also troubled by a new requirement that every entrpreneur creating a business with a video on the Internet will face new hurdles of captioning and descriptive video. How do we address this?

  12. Mr. Shapiro, It does no good to repeat that this legislation aims for accommodations online and for wireless for ALL disabilities including your implied multitude of "mental" disabilities. There is NO way anyone can do that. Consider again these few facts:
    This legislation merely modernizes the older law for equal rights; it is primarily for millions of people with hearing and vision differences; there is included the undue burden standard, very well accepted until now and your exaggerations. You know in your heart that it is not so costly nor so complicated to provide speech-to-text (captioning), and text-speech (the easier one) for us. Why not break out of the mistakes of the past, lead your industry in humane and ethical support of this legislation which will happen, no matter what, even if you keep trying to delay it. Think about it very carefully, it's GOOD for business, we promise you that.

  13. So Mr. Shapiro, are you literally championing for social injustice? How would you feel if your own son or daughter had some form of disability that prevented them from enjoying products just like everyone else. By your comments, you would in essence be denying them the opportunities. It almost seems that you value profits more than social justice. Also by doing so, you neglect a group that will be an importance source of profit in the future. I urge you to be more constructive in your criticism of HR3101/S3304. Why not offer a hand and work with us to fine tune the legislation?

  14. Perhaps I'm not informed enough, but I think those entrepreneurs can simply upload transcripts in a cross-platform format that can serve as captioning (similar to how YouTube currently works), or like a previous commenter said, simply caption things once and then transfer across multiple platforms, as it has that accessibility.

    I do agree with Mr. Shapiro that the bill as constituted -- to make every possible accommodation to every type of physical and mental disability -- is quite a tall task.

  15. hello sharpio,

    we must keep the support the caption the words in any programs all the world. cuz we must know what spread of the words in all world to keep outs minds...thanks you for supports to keep captions in the future!!!

  16. The previous commenter is correct...the bill is aimed primarily at providing accessibilities for those with hearing and vision loss. That is our biggest concern - that the deaf & hard of hearing and/or blind customers have accessibility to technology. So, considering this, we are not expecting the technology to provide accessibilities for EVERY person with EVERY type of phsyical or mental disability (although that would be nice)....just that the deaf/HoH and the blind people have equal opportunity to access to the technology like everyone else.

  17. Shapiro Not My Hero asks "that every entrpreneur creating a business with a video on the Internet will face new hurdles of captioning and descriptive video. How do we address this? " Well, they don't seem to have any problem addressing VOLUME for hearing people and TEXT of audio is already in beta version (by Google Youtube) so why do you persist is seeing things as "hurdles" when they just require SOME INNOVATIVE THINKING? You have it all backwards, Shapiro. There's a functional need, then solve it.
    That's how every new invention occurs. You are trashing your own industry. They should vote you out of your position.