launch of Hulu Plus earlier this week, one of the comments we received touched on an issue that many overlook when considering online video. While others argued dollars and cents, one lone commenter pondered whether Hulu would be providing captions on its videos. YouTube, the largest provider of online video content, already provides automatic captioning services, but these are far from perfect. On Wednesday, however, YouTube announced that it has partnered with the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) to certify "YouTube Ready" captioning services.When we announced the
The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) estimates that there are approximately 70 million deaf people worldwide, which doesn't include those that are merely hard of hearing. Though the WFD also estimates that as much as 80% of these people live in developing countries, there is still an enormous deaf population that could potentially be viewing online videos.
list of 12 vendors that have been evaluated as "YouTube Ready." These captioning services all have their own YouTube channels and have agreed to offer specific YouTube captioning prices typically ranging from $2 to $10 per minute.In order to provide more accurate captions for YouTube users, The DCMP has created a
But as YouTube points out, captions aren't just about being more accessible to the hearing impaired.
"Captions ensure that many more people can understand what's happening in your video, from deaf and hard of hearing viewers to people who speak a different language from you and choose to auto-translate the captions into their language," the company said in a blog post Wednesday. "Captions also make your video a lot more discoverable. People searching for content on YouTube might encounter your video if your captions contain the words or subjects they're looking for."
It's nice that YouTube is helping to curate a list of vendors that service online video, but it would also be more encouraging to see their own automatic captions improve in quality. The captions can be so off from the original speech in the videos that they have become their own internet meme.
As for captioning on Hulu, the service already provides captions for many of its shows, but far from all of them. It also doesn't seem that captioning has made it's way onto the iPhone or iPad versions of Hulu announced earlier this week, but that could be coming in a later release.
Until better text to speech technologies can provide more consistent automatic captioning for online video, the hearing impaired continue to struggle to keep up with the continuous flow of online video. While many of the captioning services can provide accurate captions, even for events with live streaming web video, the future of true accessibility likely lies in better automatic captioning.