Friday, October 23, 2015

The Onion Makes People Laugh. However, Deaf People Can Only Cry.

Have you ever heard of "The Onion?" It is a parody/satirical news source, and very popular! Well, it is popular with hearing people, who can watch the videos on their website or their YouTube channel. Deaf people can't.

The Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC) wants to change that! Frustrated by having its requests for captions on The Onion's videos ignored, the CCAC has launched a campaign to get The Onion to closed caption finally! In an action alert, the CCAC wrote:
The Onion" has no captioning for videos, long overdue. We like to laugh also! and captions not only for deaf and hard of hearing. Captions are the world's language (for translations, search, more). Tweet them, FB them, email them to ask for Quality Captioning. Thanks if you do! TheOnion dot com has staff names and emails. On Twitter it's @TheOnion and @jmdavid [he is the digital manager for The Onion] among others. Questions? Email anytime. Updates regularly for all in CCAC forum online also.
Think of The Onion as a reverse Buzzfeed, with short stories that put a humorous twist on actual things from the news.

The Onion's website uses a video player which clearly does not have the ability to display closed captions. This can be verified by looking at a video there and exploring the video player; there is no feature or option to display closed captions. For example, there is no CC button. They could have edited closed captioning on YouTube, but they are not captioning there.

However! A few years ago The Onion DID caption a few YouTube videos. It looks like they stopped captioning on July 30, 2012 which is the last captioned YouTube video uploaded by The Onion. The earliest one appears to have been from 2008, like the one below.

Live from Onion News Network...Fake News!
But The Onion stopped captioning in 2012, obviously not serious at all about being accessible!  So for the last three years, deaf and hard of hearing viewers and others who need closed captions, have been left out!

CCAC has been pounding on The Onion for weeks, and their efforts may be starting to bear fruit. CCAC announced that on October 21 they spoke to someone with The Onion! No further details were provided, and the battle continues.

Caption Action 2 has also previously asked The Onion for captions, as far back as 2013! And for the past few weeks, the CCAC (@CCACaptioning ) has been repeatedly tweeting The Onion. There's been no twitter response - not surprising because The Onion has over 8 million followers on Twitter! CCAC also reached out via email not once, not twice, but THREE times, and got zero response.

Why The Onion? When it comes to news and satire, The Onion is like a mirror image of the New York  Times! The "quality" of their "reporting" is such that often their fake stories have been mistaken for real news. AND they have been online since 2007, which means that there is almost a decade's worth of satirical videos online that are inaccessible to deaf and hard of hearing people.

CCAC can't do it alone. Can you help?


  1. Many thanks to Jamie for shouting about this and adding her style to it all! Updates today, the CCACblogpost will be of interest to you all. If a deaf CCAC member can add quality CC, so can the Onion who must already have transcripts, the major hurdle. Please also join and support the CCAC any way you can. We believe in "Group Work" - official non-profit, all volunteers.

  2. Here's a recent Onion video (with captioning) via the CCAC:

  3. I don't understand your comment where you say that their website video player doesn't have the ability to display captioning - can you explain what you are getting at here?