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Accessibility CART (live captioning) Communication Access Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Public Advocacy Speech to Text Captions

Quality Captions

With the Global Alliance of Speech to Text Quality Caption Task Force

Our guests today are:

  • Sebrina Crosby, CRC. Sebrina is a Realtime CART Captioner and owner of Access Captioning, LLC
  • Kimberly Shea, NCSP, CRC. Kimberley is a realtime broadcast/CART captioner and she is the President of Breaking Barriers Captioning Services, LLC.

Serbina and Kimberly volunteer with Global Alliance Speech to Text with the Quality Caption Task Force

Captions are our access to television. Without captions, we have to make up our own stories with what we see. We did a podcast with Liza Sylvestre early this year, an artist who uses her hearing loss in her art. Her project “Captioned” is a good example of what we do without captions. Captions are our language. Quality captions matter. Don’t make us guess, especially when the information is important.  

Kimberly and Serbrina are especially busy lately with captioning so we are appreciative of the time they spent with us. In our current podcast, they talk to us about quality captions and their upcoming project which will improve captions…and they need our help.

Captions Matter

Chelle: This is how bad  my hearing is – I’ll be watching a movie and reading the captions as usual. My husband will come in and ask me why I’m watching a movie in a foreign language. I had no idea they were speaking a foreign language. To me, all dialog on the TV comes across garbled. I cannot watch TV without captions.

Captions are our access to communication.

My husband likes to watch the news. I read the captions. When the news goes live on certain channels, there’s no captions which completely leaves me out. I get up and leave the room, it’s not inclusive. Sometimes, the captions are so far behind during certain live shows, I can’t  get the full transcript before commercials come up and I lose the last little bit. This is when I use my wifi based assistive listening system from my good friends at Listen Tech. When the show is live, they generally face the camera so I can use lipreading too. The captions become backup.

Captions Sometimes Lag Far Behind

During our October Talk About It Tuesday monthly chat, someone else brought up television captions and the lag. This can be a technology issue, Julia explained. Sometimes it’s captioning going through different kinds of technology before it’s presented on the TV. It can be the cable box. There’s no real criteria for consistency between TV stations and our televisions. For no captions, someone at the TV station probably forgot to flip a switch. 

Saturday Night Live captions lag far behind. It’s frustrating.

We can make a difference

Serbrina tells us during the podcast, we can make a difference in our own cities by staying on top of our local TV stations. There are pockets of stations in the USA who do a good job with captions, even though they aren’t in the top 25. (The top 25 have to have live captioners.) It’s because the Hard of Hearing and Deaf community members are actively contacting the stations about caption issues. 

Last weekend, I had a friend approach me about a recent Utah governor’s address on TV not being captioned. She and her husband have started to use captions more often.  She said they had an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter but there were no captions. Why, she wanted to know. The Deaf community have been more firm with their communication needs than we have. We can learn from them.

Follow Up

We need to follow up with the TV stations who are not providing captions. Each station has a caption assistance page (it’s the law to have captions). I keep my most watched local TV station’s “caption assistance” pages on my phone. We can call them, email them or fill out their contact page. I’ve let stations know what the problem is and I’ve also complimented another station on providing great captions. When it’s a glaring problem, I get on my local HLAA email list and tell others to tune in and write to the TV station too. I told her next time she sees something like that, let me know and I’ll spread the word. Sebrina is right, the more of us who do this, the better captioning we get. 

Hearing Parnters Can Help

Julia: Quality captions help everyone. If you’re a hearing partner, odds are the captions are on all the time. I know at our house they are. My guess is that you are using the captions more than you realize. I do. When they are poor quality, whether the program is live or pre-recorded, it’s distracting and it drives me nuts!

But, as a hearing partner you just have to put up with it, right? Wrong.

I encourage everyone (HoHs, hearing partners, ANYONE who uses TV captioning) at home, in a bar or restaurant, at work…ANYONE who may want to use or needs to use captions at a future date, (come on now hearing loss can happen to anyone) to get involved. When local stations hear from their local viewers they take note. 

During a local news broadcast you might even see an advertisement about a local store who is credited for sponsoring the closed captions. Drop by that local store and let them know captions matter and let them know if it’s quality captions that they are sponsoring. 

Change happens when we speak up together. 

Call to Action!

Kimberly Shea: “The first place we need to start is making a record. We will gather video data and samples from all over the country. The Task Force will evaluate each video against a metric system that is designed for captioning. This will address the quality, and the usability of captions for consumers. This has never been done before.”

Global Alliance will have a call to action soon and you will see Hearing Loss LIVE! sharing it. 

The more of us with hearing loss helping, the better captioning will get. 

Join Global Alliance Speech to Text. Together we make a difference.

Did you like this blog? Check out the podcast we did with Jen Schuck of Global Alliance earlier this past spring.   

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