Streaming Video and the Deaf Communtity: The Good and the Bad

I am fascinated by the ways technology can open up the world and make it more accessible for people with disabilities. What is a convenience for you and me may be a life changer for someone else. Unfortunately, sometimes technology outpaces itself, and leaves the accessibility features playing catch-up. It is something of a mixed bag in many areas, especially for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

According to Slate, closed captioning is not required on Netflix, Hulu, and other digital media options. While Netflix does offer some closed caption titles, not all of their library is set up for it, and you can only use closed caption on a tablet. So you’re out of luck if you want to watch on any decent sized tv. Obviously this has landed Netflix in the crosshairs of a lawsuit, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Hulu wasn’t far behind them.

On the upside, Google announced they plan to add closed captioning to Google+ Hangouts. The Verge says Google will be using a live service, so hopefully the transcription will be better than Google Voice voicemail transcriptions, which seems designed solely to make my friends sound like surrealist paintings come to life.

After reading the Slate post this morning, I started looking more into how technology has improved and changed life for the deaf community, and came across this great article from the Boston Globe. I never realized this, but the deaf community has embraced FaceTime and other video chat options because it gives them the chance to talk on the phone through sign language!

Going back to the initial article that got me thinking about all this, it really is a shame that Netflix, Hulu, and other digital streamers haven’t cracked including closed captions yet. Apple has made the iPhone accessible to a visually impaired woman, and video chat is bringing phone calls to the deaf community in a whole new way. We have a population that is growing older but also more tech savvy, and improvements like closed captioning on digital videos is going to become mandatory, not a luxury.

Have you found new ways that technology has improved life for you or someone else? Let us know the stories in the comments!


Categories: Gear Bits

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4 replies

  1. I’m not sure why Hulu would be sued for not doing something they’re already doing. They have been offering closed captioning for several years.

    I’ve never seen it offered with an Amazon streaming video, however.

    • Interesting. I went by the Slate article, which said Hulu and Netflix. Could be that Hulu, like netflix, offers closed captions only on web streaming and not through roku, etc. or they got their wires crossed and meant Amazon Prime.
      Thanks for the heads up…now when I get home I am going to investigate that. :)

  2. Strange report. When I watch Netflix on my AppleTV, I get closed captions for almost everything I watch.