Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sorry Shapiro, Voluntary Doesn't Work!

Perhaps Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, who fervently believes voluntary actions are enough, would like to answer the following questions...

Why is it, Mr. Shapiro, that after Congress passed the television decoder circuitry act, we did not get a substantial voluntary increase in closed captioning? Why is it that for six years, from 1990 to 1996, there was only a small increase in closed captioning?

If "voluntary" efforts had worked, Congress would not have had to pass the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That law made closed captioning on television mandatory.

Shapiro mentions voluntary around 56:40 in the video;

"While we share the goal of providing access to technology to all persons, our experience has taught us that voluntary multi-stakeholder, open, due process standard setting efforts are a better way to go than simply mandating every function of every product be accessible to people with every type of disability. To put it simply, mandating universal design is an innovation killer. Innovation leads to accessibility, not the other way around."
Industry has proven through failures such as what happened from 1990 to 1996, that it can not be relied upon to do the right thing voluntarily.

Want another example of industry failure to do the right thing? Web video has been around since at least 1999. As far back as 1999 we deaf and hard of hearing were being left out of the new world of Internet video.

If voluntary actions were enough, and if industry could be counted on to do the right thing, industry would have held off on launching Internet video until it could have found solutions to have captions on said video. Instead, industry rushed to launch video on the web, and deaf and hard of hearing people and their needs be damned.

One more example. When portable DVD players were introduced to the market, we bought one. Only to discover that it was not capable of displaying closed captions on its seven inch screen.

Another example - when national mobile digital TV services like FloTV and MobiTV launched, there was no captioning.

See Flo TV Super Bowl Ad? Flo TV Doesn't Caption!

Flo TV Can't Commit to Captioning!

MobiTV Does Not Caption Either...

This is what we are trying to put an end to through HR 3101...the CONSTANT rush to "market" or "internet" without taking into consideration that a sizable audience is being left out right from the start! Leaving us out prior to product launch means we are considered second class citizens!

So sorry, Mr. Shapiro, your beloved mantra of "Voluntary is the way to go!" is a big fat lie!!

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  1. Let’s see, for “innovation leads to accessibility”:

    Innovation of telephone over telegraph – totally accessible without legislation? NO

    Innovation of cellular telephone over landline telephone – totally accessible without legislation? NO

    Innovation of television over radio – totally accessible without legislation? NO

    Innovation of talking movies over silent films – totally accessible without legislation? NO

    Innovation of online video versus over the air – totally accessible without legislation? NO

    I challenge Shapiro to NAME ONE widely used innovation that has led to accessibility for more than one type of disability.

  2. While I agree that "voluntary" is not the way to go, I disagree that the industry should hold back technologies until they can make it accessible. The deaf and hard-of-hearing is a small subset of a much larger market. Holding technologies back for a small subset of the market does not lead to a sustainable business. That argument doesn't really hold water.

    However, that is a moot point, since the technologies ARE available - witness iTunes, Hulu, ABC, YouTube, and so on and so forth. They all have the technology in place, the only thing the industry needs to do is use it. Therefore, this is a prime time for HR 3101 or it's equivalent. If we tried to get this passed, say, three years ago, all those people saying it's too expensive, the technology isn't ready, and the rest of the excuses would have, frankly, been right.

    Fortunately for us, it is 2010, and all of the major internet video providers have the technologies. They've already done the hard work captioning all the television shows and movies for television, open captioned theater and DVD/Blu-Ray. It is a trivial matter to also do it for internet media.

  3. Rep. Markey said that what Shapiro said in his op ed was untrue. This was also the case at the hearing, everything he said was UNTRUE. He even said "we (industry) invented closed captioning."
    NO. It was the engineering department of the Public Broadcasting TV System that started to work on the project of closed captioning in 1973 under contract to the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped. Once again, government had to do what INDUSTRY VOLUNTARILY COULD HAVE DONE BUT DIDN'T. How come our congressmen don't know a liar when he's in front of them? Must be "blinded" by all the money coming in from fat cat donors.

  4. Sad news for them but helpless. Its see what will happen.

  5. WHoever above wrote "The deaf and hard-of-hearing is a small subset of a much larger market" when talking about captioning online just doesn't get it either. The captions are NOT JUST USED BY deaf and hard of hearing. English as a second language people use them. People with crummy computer speakers. People who don't want the sound on as someone sleeping nearby or whatever. One of those myths about captioning.