Friday, March 27, 2009

Virtual Silence

I logged on to for President Obama’s virtual Town Hall Meeting, only to discover the video feed was not captioned. My cochlear implant, a miracle but far from perfect, makes me a member of the statistical 10 percent of the population which is hearing disabled. Thanks for network television. How can I utter such an absurdity? Life is full of contradictions and puzzlements. Congress required commercial television to provide captions. Thanks for Congress. Another two-edged utterance. Most new movies for rent at Blockbuster and Hollywood Videos are captioned. A limited few shopping mall movie houses offer captioned showings. Last week, my wife and I enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire, Oscar winner for best film, during lunchtime on Sunday at Atlantic Station. It has been a while since we went to a theatre to see a movie that was not a foreign language film with English subtitles. Check out my blog NOW SHOWING…With Captions, which I update weekly with times and locations of local movies captioned for the hearing impaired. Would you want to see those movie selections at those times of day? Worse is the situation with videos on the internet, virtually never carrying any captions.

The behind the ear processor of my cochlear implant can be connected directly to the audio of my television set, cassette tape or cd player, and some landline telephones. However, I am not able to hook up to my cell phone. I have to turn on the speaker-phone feature, and my guess is not as good as yours as to what the person is saying on the other end of the phone call. I wanted to get one of those little portable, battery operated televisions for picnics and other outdoor fun. However, the requirement to make televisions capable of displaying captions does not apply to screens smaller than 13 inches. My universal television remote contains 45 buttons in black, gray, orange, red, green, yellow, and blue. None of them will turn on the captions.

Many federal laws have been enacted over the past 20 years to require greater access to telecommunications. However, fast-paced technological advancements outrun the laws. Television programs re-shown on the Internet are not covered by caption requirements, even if originally broadcast with captions. Small TVs, cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices are not required to display captions, despite the technical capability. Emergency 9-1-1 call centers cannot accept calls from people who need to communicate via video, pagers or other assistive devices.

A 21st Century Telecommunications and Video Accessibility Act, introduced in the last session of Congress, would correct some of these exclusions from modern media. I signed petition by The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) to have the bill reintroduced in the current session of Congress and ensure that people with disabilities have access to evolving high speed broadband, wireless, and other Internet-based technologies.

Here are some of the issues advocated by COAT:

Hearing Aid Compatibility.

Accessibility to internet-based communication products and services, if "readily achievable," the same requirement currently imposed on all telecommunications manufacturers and service providers.

Equal access to 9-1-1 emergency call centers through voice, text, the Internet, video, and any other new technologies.

Universal Service Fund (USF) coverage for video calls, as well as specialized equipment for deaf-blind consumers.

Caption decoding and display capability for all televisions, recording, and playback devices, with screens of any size.

Captioning obligations for Internet-based video programming.

Control buttons to turn captions on and off.

Copyright 2009 by Williaqm C. Cotter


CP said...

That must have been really frustrating.
If you don't have one, I want to recommend a texting cell phone. I have one (Verizon) and most of the messages I get are texts. Tina can e-mail my telephone directly from her home computer with a message like Bring Home Milk, or even R U O K? if I'm late. You use the cell number plus
I texted straight to her e-mail when I was traveling back from Kansas and had an extremely long hold up on I-75. The phone rings three times and stops -- or it vibrates, which a lot of people use. Also, of course, I can send text messages. The little keyboard isn't great for real writing, but I'm not into chatting on the run. What it's great for is quick essential communications, especially on the road.
It's a little pricy but I'd definitely recommend it.

Paw Paw Bill said...

Yes, texting is very helpful for the deaf and popular. Unfortunately, the gadgets are expensive. There are so many assistive hearing devices available. If you bought one of each, you would spend a fortune. Some are better than others. Very few work together. I do not miss talking on the telephone. It was never something I enjoyed anyway. Conducting necessary business is the real problem. I use the relay operator and make business calls on my computer, typing my end of the conversation, reading the operator transcription of what the person is saying. For emergencies and to phone home, I do carry a cell phone. I can put the handsfree earpiece up to the microphone of my cochlear implant. With luck, I can tell the difference between "cheeze and bread" vs. "please drop dead."

rosaline said...

Mr. Cotter --

Thank you for supporting and signing the COAT petition.

Thank you, too, for your advocacy efforts for more captioned movies in
your area, and for captioning everywhere.

You may also be interested in a couple of other caption-advocacy blogs
that I have come across. I am sure there are more:

There is also a Yahoo Groups listserv about captioning. (Go to and search for "captioning." You will need to
"Join This Group" to see and post messages.) Much of the recent
discussion has been about captioning on television -- including and
especially digital television issues. They also discuss captioning on
the Internet and other venues.

In addition to some networks providing captions for some of their
online TV shows, there is also Search for "special
feature" (singular "feature"; not plural "features"). At the bottom
left of the result page you will find the link for videos with "closed
captioning." Not the easiest way to find CC on the hulu site, but it
works. If you find an easier way, let me know.

And, of course, there is information about captioning on the NAD
website (under the Legal Rights and the Advocacy tabs on the home page Our movie advocacy information was last updated in
2006; sorely in need of further updates, but not much has really
changed technology or numbers-wise. I do my best to post updates on
the NAD Advocacy Blog ( about all
captioning issues, including FCC and COAT activities. If you are
interested in getting periodic updates, you are welcome to sign up for
the NADezine at

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you and welcome you to the world of
caption advocacy.

P.S. With respect to telephone access (I read your blog), you might
want to check out Georgia Relay CapTel
( and WebCapTel
( HLAA also has
information about hearing aid compatible (HAC) phones. I'm not an expert on
HAC phones to know if specifications equally apply to CIs, but their
website might provide information on that, too. If not and you need
more info, let me know.


Rosaline Crawford
Director, NAD Law and Advocacy Center


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