Edis Bevan: One small victory for online subtitles

Posted on July 12, 2012



Full Fact is an excellent project that checks out the accuracy of statistical claims made in public debates. The site asks questions like ‘Are 500,00 jobs arriving in Jobcentres every week? (total nonsense) and ‘Are nine out of ten spending cuts still to come?’ (the answer is yes).

Some of its fact-checking reports are in the form of videos with graphics and spoken commentary.  Until recently, none of those videos were subtitled.

So I wrote an email to Full Facts:

Dear Full Facts

Thank you for your important work, which I can tell you is already making an impact on the way statistical issues are discussed in debates.

But I do need to ask for some further effort on your part to make your material more accessible.

This concerns your video discussions. They appear to have no subtitle options built in and as a consequence the audio portions are inaccessible to people with hearing difficulties. And that means a LOT more people than are normally counted as ‘deaf’.

The YouTube voice to text ‘subtitling’ option is a noble attempt but it can be farcical. I invite you to watch your own videos with this enabled and see if what comes out makes sense.

There is a campaign building up in the deaf community for all video streamed material to have subtitle options as a matter of course. Could you provide a good example that can be quoted by this campaign?

I ended my email giving links to The Limping Chicken and to Pesky Peoples ‘Subtitles Now!’ Campaign.

Just two working days later I got this reply.

Hi Edis,

Thank you very much for getting in touch about this. We will make some of our own subtitles for the Housing Benefit video factcheck we published recently and we will look to providing it for two other video checks we have done – on policing and transport fares in London.

As for the future, we will aim to publish subtitles as soon as we can, although it is likely to be difficult for us to do this straight away after publication each time.

Once accessible options are provided for our recent video I will let you know.

Thanks again,

Joseph, Full Fact

I think this is a pretty remarkable and responsible response.

Even better, a few days later, Full Fact have now subtitled one video on Housing Benefit cuts, which is accessible in beta at the following link: http://www.universalsubtitles.org/en-gb/videos/cD0Ho16t0DHE/info/housing-benefit-cuts-explained/

It looks pretty good.

I am mailing them back saying thanks and they will then re-post the entire video to YouTube (which will be the acid test of whether the title options are accessible).

Well done to Full Fact. Other providers take note.

Edis Bevan went deaf when he was about four back in the days when signing was actively discouraged. He is a former lecturer in the Technology Faculty of the Open University and was one of the first deaf Open University tutors. He lives in Milton Keynes.

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Posted in: edis bevan, features