Joanna Poulton: Why Vimeo and other online video hosting sites need to be more accessible

Posted on December 18, 2013



There are vast amounts of creative and visual content online that is still inaccessible to deaf  audiences due to the lack of subtitling through online video hosts.

Being a CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult), I have found myself straddling both the hearing and the deaf world my entire life.

I was involved with a Deaf and hearing drama group from a young age (Words Signs and Vibes) which provided me with some incredible opportunities to spread awareness and have an amazing time whilst touring with Sign Song extraordinaire Jayne Fletcher.

The beautiful visual aspects of the deaf world continue to inspire and aid me when making creative decisions on my degree. I am currently at Bournemouth University studying Scriptwriting for TV and Film and wherever possible I am writing scripts that are accessible to deaf audiences.  For example here is a short film I wrote last year.

I am now approaching the second term of my final year on the course, where I am feverishly writing a dissertation centred on ‘The Lack of Deaf Culture Represented in Mainstream Television’ as well as a twenty minute short film with a deaf lead character.

With the increase in social media and video content on the internet, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of subtitles featured. I want to be able to send my Mum a video and for her to be able to understand it fully without these constant barriers.

This is what inspired me to create an online petition.

My petition asks Vimeo to ask its up-loaders to make subtitled versions of their videos available. Vimeo (www.vimeo.com) is a huge video host that specialises in short films that are usually Drama, Documentary mixed in with loads of Animation.

It prides itself on its high quality content, rightly so, as it is brimming with thousands of exceptional videos, however, they do not even provide the unreliable captioning option that Youtube has. The captioning option is certainly a step forward but there needs to be more research poured into it as the result is often inaccurate gibberish.

Following this continual frustration I have recently signed up to Amara to voluntarily add subtitles to videos so the Deaf/hearing impaired can access more content, however it is incredibly time-consuming and unrealistic for  these online video websites to rely on volunteers to make their content accessible.

They should be creating agreements in their terms and conditions (which every user must agree to) by which the uploader will be encouraged to add a subtitled option or version upon the upload of their video.

At the very least, it would make them think about other audiences that they could be reaching.  Arguably it may take a few hours to do this but it would be worth it as the creator will be able to reach millions of more viewers and Deaf and HOH viewers will be able to access more content online.

This would also save many volunteers’ hours or trawling the net and manually subtitling videos, in this instance, everyone wins.

This is precisely what my petition proposes. More subtitles online. If you do agree with what I am suggesting please do sign it this online petition: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/vimeo-encourage-subtitled-versions-of-videos-to-be-uploaded-for-deaf-people

The very least it will do is raise awareness and let these huge hosts know that they are preventing a huge body of people equal access to their videos.

photoThank you for reading, Joanna.

Click here to read Joanna’s blog.

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Posted in: Joanna Poulton