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Closed captioning and web accessibility


Social inclusion for people with disabilities is an  ideology which is implicated among society in a number of institutions such as public sector employment, the health care system, and education.

The legal requirements and components were set in place by various laws which sought out equality in such institutions. These include the rehabilitation 1973 act which is a law that was established in order to require federal and federally funded programs to promote the treatment and inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

Although the act was initially established as a means of focusing on inequality within employment, it has since broadened and expanded to put further emphasis on the technology spectrum due to the influx of internet usage over the last 2 decades.

The primary aim of Verbit is to create a solution which tackles a lot of issues which arise in any sector in terms of transcribing and captioning. The emphasis on sensory disabled groups who have been alienated when it comes to modern technology. Verbit is making a big difference for this community– and in many instances its frankly about time that there was a change.

For example, the education system is filled with tools, learning necessities, and services which do not suit the needs of students with sensory disabilities. Verbit’s proprietary AI technology has been fine-tuned to tackle the specific needs of this area, in which accurate transcriptions and captions are critical for students to learn.

The rehabilitation act of 1973 consisted of 2 sections; section 504 and section 508. In 1977, there were new emphasized rules implemented in section 504 as it became an expansion of the last line in the rehabilitation act. The emphasis came from offering the same rights to people with disabilities in line with the same rights attributed to civil rights groups in 1964.

Section 504 is considered to be the force to announce civil rights for individuals with disabilities.

The act says that,”No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.”

Section 504 is a law which aims to create educational models specific to catering to the needs of individuals with disabilities. By law, it should be implemented in any local educational agency, system of vocational education, or other school system.

In 1986, section 508 was also implemented with less success than that of section 504. This was then remodeled later and by 1998, it was amended to the Rehabilitation Act and signed into law successfully.

This law focuses on the advancement of technology and to ensure that information technology systems and web content must be accessible to all. States must ensure that all programs using technology should comply with section 508 at a satisfactory level in order to qualify for any type of program funding.

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What’s new in FCC standards for online videos?

Online videos have become the norm and one of the most predominant ways of watching online media in the 21st century for the majority of individuals. Gone are the days of checking your TV guide, or even Tele-Text (for those old enough to remember) for the next available screening of your favorite TV show.

With online videos, multiple streaming services, and social networks such as You Tube being easily accessible, watching whatever we want whenever we want is a very standard aspect of modern day culture.

However, when it comes to IP video programming legislation,  the FCC  (Federal Communication Commission) have continued to work hard on improving their rules on closed captioning. Numerous updates have recently taken place in order to fall into accordance with the CVAA (Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act).

The need for clearer legislation for online video programming has been highly sought after in order to maintain a level of quality standards which is relevant for transcription companies like Verbit. As of February 20th, 2014 the FCC declared a new rule regarding content quality for closed captioning of video programming, CVAA.

Traditionally the FCC ruling has only focused on television programming; however in their report they demonstrate that the quality standards for television closed captioning has become even more so prevalent because it sets the bar for content shown online. Thus, the passage of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) requires the following standards; anything shown on traditional television must reach the same programming standards once released as an online video.

The four new quality standards have been put in place to categorize the importance and accessibility of online video captioning. The standards are as follows; caption accuracy, caption synchronicity, program completeness, and caption placement.

We’ve broken them down in to four summaries in order to provide a clearer depiction and gain a clear understanding of each component:

Caption accuracy

According to the FCC, “In order to be accurate, captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue, in their original language (English or Spanish), to the fullest extent possible and include full lyrics when provided on the audio track.” Make perfect sense? What the FCC are stating here is that captions must mirror almost identically what is spoken in the audible content. This typically neglects the use of paraphrasing. Furthermore, the use of good grammar and spelling is also important and taken into consideration.

In order to further be deemed as accurate, captions must also emphasize the tone of voice portrayed by the speaker. They must be writing in accurate context also and the impact of the performance must not be lost in the transcribed captioning. It is worth highlighting here that this includes noises, sound effects, music etc.

Caption synchronicity

The FCC says here, “In order to be synchronous, captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible.” Let’s face it, we’re not human robots, therefore, the FCC has ensured captions are readable at a suitable speed for viewers. In addition, when programs are edited, the captions are reformatted to provide accurate synchronization.

Program completeness

Here, the FCC states, “In order for a program’s captions to be complete, captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program, to the fullest extent possible.” Simply, to ensure captions do not drop mid program and any which do will be within violation of the FCC standards.

Caption placement

FCC states that “captions should not block other important visual content on the screen including, but not limited to, character faces, featured text (e.g. weather or other news updates, graphics and credits), and other information that is essential to understanding a program’s content when the closed captioning feature is activated.” New standards ensure text can be clearly seen and read on the screen for viewers to see.

While online videos were also captioned at high accuracy levels, when measuring accuracy it can sometimes be subjective, therefore the FCC standards are somewhat lenient.

Further changes in FCC standards include the addition of religious organisations having to comply with new standards as of October 20th, 2011. Additionally, closed captioning requirements for IP delivered video content was placed on public video clips as of July 11, 2014.

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