Captioning and Video Accessibility

The issue
Video programming -- whether it is television programming, movies, videotapes/DVDs, webcasts, or other technology -- is not fully accessible to Deaf people.

CAD's position
Quality captioning (open or closed) or Sign language interpreting should be mandatory for all programming and is achievable immediately. There are no excuses!

The technology to provide efficient and economic captioning of all programming exists now, regardless of the medium used (websites, YouTube, DVD’s, Blu-Ray discs, traditional television, home-made video productions, webcasts, video-on-demand, downloads, traditional movie theatres…) It is discriminatory and in violation of equality laws to not provide it.

Alleged financial barriers to full captioning are nonsense. Reasonably good captioning software can be downloaded from the Internet for free! The costs of captioning are a minuscule portion of overall production costs. Treating the costs of captioning as a "frill" to be undertaken only if there is money left over after production is irresponsible and inappropriate.

The Canadian Association of the Deaf has long maintained that captioning is not merely "a Deaf issue". The potential captioning audience is not limited to the 340,000 Deaf people in this country. There are 3.15 million hard of hearing Canadians who may also benefit from captioning. Captioning has been proven to improve the reading and writing of people who have low literacy skills: there are 6.5 million functionally illiterate Canadians. Children learn language through the kind of exposure provided by captions. Immigrants who know neither English nor French can utilize captioning to assist them in learning one or the other language. Anyone who knows one of Canada's official languages and wishes to learn or improve skills in the other language can use captioning to this end.

Thus, a conservative estimate would be that over 10 million Canadians -- more than one-third of the total population -- can benefit from captioning.

The Canadian Association of the Deaf considers it unacceptable that after more than 30 years of captioning in Canada, the broadcasters of this country have still not attained the objective of fully captioned programming. We note that the regulatory agency (CRTC) has finally begun treating captioning as an integral part of television programming; we applaud the agency. It took 30 years, but our message has finally gotten through to them!

Unfortunately, the CRTC declines jurisdiction over on-line content (including downloads of television programs and movies, and the websites of television licencees), as well as retail versions of this content (e.g., movies and programs on DVD/Blu-Ray). While we understand the limitations of the agency’s mandate and its ability to realistically “police” on-line content, there is no justification for a failure to caption all videotapes and DVDs. Many DVDs offer subtitles in English and/or French; while very helpful and usually greatly superior to captioning in terms of quality, they are not a substitute for good captioning, because subtitles make only dialogue available. Captions, on the other hand, provide viewers with a more complete version of the audio track because they include sound effects, off-screen noises, musical cues, and so on. It is also very exasperating to find the movie or television episode captioned on the DVD version, but not the extra materials such as commentary, blooper reels, out-takes, “making of” documentaries, etc. It can happen that of six hours of material on a DVD, only the 90-minute film itself is captioned.

The quality of captioning remains a concern. The use of voice-recognition technology has led to an increase in poor quality captioning. The Canadian Association of the Deaf has participated in meetings with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters towards the development of national standards for captioning, as part of an effort to address this problem. Our position is that captions must be verbatim, rather than summaries or edits of actual spoken dialogue. Captioners have no right to change spoken words in order to make their own jobs easier; this is a form of both discrimination and censorship.

French-language captioning has always lagged behind English-language captioning in its development, due to the alleged difficulties in processing accents. The technology for expert French captioning has now caught up to English captioning; again, there is no longer any excuse not to provide French captioning for all programming on French-language channels.

If programming is provided without captioning, there should be a discount or reduction in fees for captioning consumers. It is unjust to charge us the same prices as hearing viewers if we are getting significantly less accessible programming.


The Canadian Association of the Deaf
303 - 251 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1X3
(613)565-2882 Voice/TTY
(613)565-1207 Fax

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