About Closed Captioning (CC)…

2016-01-31_10-01-12.pngI wanted to pen a post on a topic most of your are probably unfamiliar with and that is closed captioning. I’m pretty sure most of you have at least a basic idea of what that is but for those of us who are deaf it is a lifeblood of keeping up with keeping up with the world. Without CC our world would be a quite different place.

If you want to get an idea of what that means I would suggest that for the next few days when you turn on your TV to hit the mute button and watch for a couple hours. I know you would never make it that long but it would take that long for the reality of not having sound to really sink in.

I was going to give you a history of closed captioning but quickly realized that it would probably bore you so here is the cliff notes version.

  • The first use of regularly scheduled closed captioning on American television occurred on March 16, 1980.
  • Prior to 1993 if you wanted to access closed captioning you had to buy a separate set top box that costs more than the TV itself and even then only a slight majority of network shows provided the capability.
  • As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act sometime around 2005 the FCC mandated that all TV  and TV broadcasts after an initial startup period must provide a closed captioning signal.

All of this made life a little easier for those of us who are deaf.  Most, but not all pre-recorded network TV show do a pretty good job of captioning but some cable channels do it on the cheap. The quality  and consistency of captioning varies widely with live broadcasts such as the nightly news.  Sometimes there are 30 to 60 second gaps when the captioned message just locks up. It seems to me that these periods are during the most critical parts of the broadcast but I am probably being paranoid about that.  🙂

On February 20, 2014, the FCC unanimously approved the implementation of quality standards for closed captioning, addressing accuracy, timing, completeness, and placement. This is the first time the FCC has addressed quality issues in captions.

Closing out this post I want to complain a little about some of the constant aggravations in my hearing challenged life. I started using hearing aids in the early 1970s. Being a technology focused engineer I quickly came to realize that hearing aid technology greatly lagged that of other fields and the low tech hearing aids I was able to get were very expensive.

The same can be said for Closed Captioning. If you want to realize the recent advances in voice recognition technology just turn on Siri on your iPhone. I realize that being deaf for going on thirty years my speaking voice has deteriorated and was skeptical that Siri would actually work for me.  But it does!! I am amazed at how accurate it is.  If only this same technology were applied to Closed Captioning I could say goodbye to all those  very annoying thirty second gaps in my nightly newscasts.

Over the years I have come to accept that hearing loss technology is a step-child when it comes to technological advances. While there are about 40 million who are hearing impaired only about 4 million are deaf  so there is just not much attention paid to it.

 

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