Do closed captions still serve deaf people?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 14:59pm

In a captioned TEDx Talks YouTube video, captioning pioneer Gary Robson asks whether closed captions still serve deaf people.

In looking at the standard of closed captioning on US television, Robson breaks down the evolution of captioning into three distinct stages. The first is establishing a service, followed by broadening the base through legislation and finally achieving a good quality product.

Robson’s talk is a good introduction to the process of securing and developing a television caption service. The main part of his talk focuses on the elements that are needed for good quality captions and uses the just released caption quality guidelines by the Federal Communications Commission as the basis for his discussion. His focus is on live captioning, where most of the quality errors are likely to occur. Robson argues that the traditional focus on metrics does not provide a complete approach to quality as the type of errors can have more of an impact than the number of errors. 

The TEDx Talks series is aimed at a general audience and consequently Robson doesn’t really critique the approaches and offer any detailed analysis of how caption quality may be improved, but the viewer can gain a better understanding of the issues involved. For those seeking more information and a detailed review of these newer approaches, it can be found in the Media Access Australia white paper Caption Quality: International approaches to standards and measurement.

Gary Robson has written a number of books on closed captioning, including The Closed Captioning Handbook (2004) and Inside Captioning (1997).

Video: Does closed captioning still serve deaf people?: Gary Robson at TEDxBozeman [CC]


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