2020 has been a hard year. Many companies have dedicated an abundance of time and resources to make a quick transition to this new normal. However, in the technological space, there is a need to revisit how this transition negatively affects accessibility practices.
The Challenges of the New Normal
Our new normal is simple: we are all encouraged to stay home, transition our work to remote options, and practice as much physical distancing as possible. In theory, this new normal sounds comprehensive to all of our basic needs. However, that is not the case for everyone.
In our interview, Emily Flamme, a news editor at the Quinnipiac Chronicle and author of the article ‘Discrimination Against People with Disabilities’, discusses the experience of differently-abled individuals within this 2020 new normal. Emily was born profoundly deaf in both ears and therefore has had to face the challenges of an ableist society firsthand. Emily said the following:
Your opinion only matters even though you’re able-bodied. And that just seems kind of wrong to me. Somebody shift the narrative to be about the disabled person’s experiences. And just not how I’m affecting other people’s lives. Am I a burden? Am I a problem? That shouldn’t be the rhetoric about it.”
Our new normal is centered around those with able bodies, making those with disabilities have to change to fit our communication standards, rather than the other way around. As we continue to live through a pandemic, additional challenges have arisen for those with disabilities and our new normal has not evolved to solve these issues. Instead, the burden has been left on those with disabilities.
The Internal Struggle Faced by Disabled Individuals
Picture a profoundly deaf person that relies on American Sign Language. They go grocery shopping, checkout, and the cashier has no trouble communicating with them because they don’t ask too many questions. The cashier probably says, your total is $5.67, but they can see it on the screen. The cashier may have no idea they are deaf.
However, these daily, essential experiences such as grocery store visits aren’t as easy for those with disabilities. The deaf shopper probably had a completely different experience where they’re walking through the store thinking, “Oh my gosh, I feel so confused. What if someone’s talking to me and I don’t know. What are they saying? What if my hearing aids die? My gosh, are they talking to me? Am I missing something? What if the fire alarm goes off and I can’t hear it?” This internal dialogue is completely foreign to those able-bodied shoppers and exemplifies yet another barrier those with disabilities face daily.
Changes to YouTube and Accessibility Practices
In addition to our in-person experiences, the online world also disadvantages those with disabilities. Even as the majority of 2020 has moved online, our accessibility practices has not followed suit. One of the biggest challenges that disabled individuals have had to face in this new normal is the reality that captions and transcripts are not prioritized the way they should be.
On September 28, 2020, YouTube officially deactivated its crowdsourced closed captioning, just a day after the last day of the International Week of Deaf. In their announcement, YouTube said they decided to remove the feature because it is rarely used and plagued by spam and abuse. According to their recent announcement, YouTube acknowledges the fact that “captions are a great way to make content accessible for viewers. YouTube can use speech recognition technology to automatically create captions for your videos.” However, their actions do not match this statement.
Unfortunately, a lot of YouTubers are still not committed to privately captioning their videos, making it difficult for disabled users to use the platform. Individuals with hearing disabilities must have captions or subtitles. Currently, captions and subtitles are only submitted by a few users that serve to aid deaf users, but there is no fall-back on YouTube’s automatic captioning service.
The Adjustment to Reality
In her interview, Emily says that she would always use closed captioning even though she can hear very well in her everyday interactions because it augments understanding. This is the case for many other individuals with similar circumstances.
The reality is that automatic captions are not great on YouTube. Many disabled individuals are constantly disappointed with YouTube’s lack of accessibility practices and often choose to not engage with the platform at all because of this frustration.
Captioning and Transcription For Better Accessibility Practices
Transitioning to our new normal is one of the most challenging things individuals face in 2020 and this is only exacerbated for those with disabilities. When organizations or individuals actively choose to remove closed captioning or other accessibility practices, they severely harm the disabled communities. As we continue to live with COVID-19, it’s increasingly important to change our new normal to better serve the disabled communities. One of the easiest ways to do this is to include closed captions for video or audio content. The following are benefits of closed captions for all audiences.
With closed captions, individuals can more easily understand video or audio messages. This applies to both able-bodied audiences as well as those who are hard of hearing or deaf.
Indexing for SEO
For SEO, search engines cannot crawl video but they can crawl text. Even if you invest heavily in your videos, if you’re not captioning, you are not maximizing the full potential of your content. Through captions and transcriptions, you can be more confident that search engines are indexing your content in the way you intend.
Captions and transcriptions better the user experience for all audiences. By including closed captions, you give your audience the ability to enjoy your content in whatever form they prefer, making them more likely to engage with your material.
At the end of the day, including captions and transcriptions with videos are part of the accessibility requirements that companies must comply with. In education, captions and transcriptions significantly improve the learning experience. Within websites and media platforms, captioning has business benefits such as higher return on investments, better user experiences, and increased search engine optimization tools. Captions and transcripts should be made part of our new normal.
cielo24 YouTube Caption and Video Transcripts Solutions
cielo24 has a direct YouTube integration for every need.
Our Self Serve web app also allows you to apply captions to YouTube videos. Self Serve members can add highly accurate, high-quality captions to their YouTube videos. Self Serve members can get started ordering video transcripts and captions immediately, without the wait for contracts or quotes. All new users are given one free transcription and then can order more machine or human-verified captions and transcripts for less than $1 per minute.
Additionally, our Enterprise-level accounts link directly to your YouTube account so videos that you want captioned will be automatically loaded into your cielo24 account. These accounts come with the help of a dedicated account executive, as well as opening you up to our full suite of features, including 16+ foreign language translations, advanced media data, and our video wrapper.