Stanford Article: Seeing at the Speed of Sound

I love “Seeing at the Speed of Sound,” a long article by Rachel Kolb that could’ve very well been written by me. I can relate to dealing with mumblers, people with accents, spy comments, darkness and encounters with the deaf community.

Not only is it hard to lipread mumblers and people with accent, but others as she lists them. “People with thin lips; people who mumble; people who speak from the back of their throats; people with dead-fish, unexpressive faces; people who talk too fast; people who laugh a lot; tired people who slur their words; children with high, babyish voices; men with moustaches or beards; people with any sort of accent.”

My older son, 15 years old, wears his hair long. And it gets to the point where his bangs cover his eyes. I can’t talk to him like that. It feels like a barrier to communication even though it has nothing to do with his lips. Like Kolb says, people with unexpressive faces are harder to understand. So not being able to see his eyes is probably part of that.

Response to Viewpoint about Deaf Community

Hunger Games captionsI appreciate Kayla Davis sharing her experience as the child of parents who are deaf in January 4’s Viewpoints. However, readers need to hear (no pun intended) another person’s perspective. When my parents found out I was born profoundly deaf, they chose to raise me orally. As a result, I learned how to communicate by reading lips and speaking instead of using sign language.

Like Davis’ parents, I’ve run into awkward situations like being offered a wheelchair. While riding an elevator, my husband’s co-worker asked him if I could read Braille on the elevator’s buttons. When my husband first told his mother about me, she asked if I can talk. “Yes, in three languages,” he said.

Yes, some people misjudge us deaf folks. It’s often because they have little experience with us and need a little education; even well-educated people like Vice President Al Gore. After I talked to him, he said thanks in sign language. I thanked him and revealed that I didn’t know sign language. It wasn’t to embarrass him – it was to teach him and those listening to our conversation that not all deaf people are the same. Helen Keller said it well: “The highest result of education is tolerance.”

Davis rightfully expressed frustration with her parents’ neighborhood theater, which stopped providing captions. She also explained they had to wear bulky caption glasses to view movies. Maybe she’s not aware, but Cinemark offers a different captioning technology.

Hunger Games captionsCinemark has a bendable arm with that fits into the theater seat cup holder. Attached to the arm is a small display with the captions. It allows me to see most movies with family and friends without the uncomfortable glasses. Sure, the device is noticeable, but no one has given me strange looks.

I also take issue with her disappointment in ABC Family’s Switched at Birth. The show’s writers have done an excellent job of educating the audience on the diversity of the deaf population. The writers compromised by having the main deaf character speak, read lips and use sign language. They have introduced deaf characters with a variety of communication traits. For example, one regular deaf character uses sign language and never speaks. Because Davis quit viewing the show after a season and a half, she missed a few insightful episodes, one of which was entirely in sign language.

It’s ironic that Davis writes, “They [deaf people] are unique individuals, and they are just like us.” This is what Switched at Birth is about — unique individuals who communicate in different ways and come from families where some know sign language and some don’t. It’s not a perfect show, but it’s a great resource for educating people about the deaf.

Another valuable resource is the Special Needs Partnership of Dallas Jewish Family Services’ “Inclusion Experience: Taking a Walk in Different Shoes,” an educational program for schools, youth groups and organizations. Its interactive, multi-sensory curriculum simulates the effects of a variety of developmental and physical disabilities to build awareness and create an environment of inclusion and empathy.

Closed-Captioned Video Examples

Char James Tanny put together a great list of resources on captioned videos. I wanted to capture it here so I could embed videos, share a few notes and post screen shots from YouTube.

They are examples showing how the following types of videos differ:

Many years later, I’ve put together a caption guide.

No Captions

People who are deaf or hard of hearing may have trouble understanding a video without captions and transcripts like this one.

Open Captions

Open captions always show up on the screen regardless if the viewer wants it on or off.

Note: The problem with videos having open captions is they won’t show up on YouTube when searching for cc videos. This video does not appear in the search when filtering for cc videos.


This one also has captions, but you need to click the CC symbol to turn them on. This gives the user control over captions. This way you don’t have to create two separate videos. You create one video and let the user decide.

Audio Description

Audio description enhances the video by explaining what is happening. If someone cannot see the action on the screen, AD describes what’s happening. For example: [Gibbs slaps Tony on the back of the head.] Tony: Hey!

ASL / Sign Language

Videos with sign language are specifically designed for those who are fluent in sign language. (Remember not all deaf and hard of hearing people know sign language. Yes, including those who are born deaf.) YouTube has more than 40,000 ASL videos. The IRS has posted several videos to provide tax information.

Search for CC Videos

To search for videos with captions:

  1. Enter a search term.
  2. Press Enter or Return.
  3. Select CC (closed caption) from the Filter drop-down menu.
YouTube Search Filter
How to filter cc videos on YouTube

This screen shot shows the result after filtering videos by cc. Notice the cc symbol in the entry. A video with built-in captions will most likely not make the cut or have the symbol like the example.

YouTube Search Results for CC
Results of YouTube search using cc filter

Google also allows you to filter for closed captioned videos.

Search Google for CC videos
Filter closed-captioned videos in Google

What Do Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cochlear Implants Sound Like?


Image from user Ambrozjo

I had been looking for resources that show those with normal hearing what it’s like to hear with different levels of hearing loss, hearing aids, and cochlear implants. I had two resources in an old blog post and found three more today, so I’m combining them in this post.

As I come across more resources, I’ll add them. The bottom half of this post has an explanation of what it’s like for me to hear.

Hearing simulations

Hearing loss demos demonstrates what various degrees of hearing loss sound like. It has a variety of sound clips (singing, birds, telephone, musical instruments, etc.) and how they sound to someone with normal hearing, mild to moderate hearing loss and moderate to severe hearing loss.

How I Hear is an interactive tool that lets you press play on the clip and then toggle to configure severity.

This PowerPoint file is a simulation of what a cochlear implant sounds like. Be sure to play the presentation to see it work.

The following clever video from “The Flintstones” changes the sound to show you how someone with normal hearing, mild hearing loss, and moderate hearing loss hears the show. (Source: wunderlife)

This “Cochlear implant: simulation on speech and music” video is a simulation of what users of a cochlear implant hear for speech and music. (Source: wunderlife)

Hearing Loss Simulation through “Hear the World” song

Hear Loss Simulation with Dinah Shore

What it’s like to be hearing impaired

What it’s like for me to hear

I was born profoundly deaf, started wearing hearing aids at age 1, attended roughly 10 years of speech therapy and received a cochlear implant in my early 30s. I’ve always been able to recognize human voices. Most of the time, I could tell you if it was a man, woman or child. But I could not translate the speech into understandable English.

It’s like this image.

French clip

The following questions don’t apply if you’re fluent in the language shown in the image.

  • Can you tell what the image is? If yes, that’s like my ability to figure out I’m hearing someone talking as opposed to animal and other sounds.
  • Can you tell what language it is? If so, that’s like my ability to figure out if it’s a man, woman, or child talking.
  • Can you figure out a few of the words? If yes, that’s like my ability to recognize words — people saying my name or a common word like “Hello.”
  • Can you translate the paragraph and memorize it? If yes, add music and it’s like my learning the lyrics to a song and being able to follow it.

This applies to both hearing aids and the cochlear implant. The only difference is that I pick up more sounds and from further away with the cochlear implant. However, it didn’t increase (not noticeable anyway) my ability to translate human speech into English.

Curtis Pride Brings Big League Game to Gallaudet

Curtis Pride, former professional baseball player who happens to be deaf, is coaching Galludet’s baseball team. A former Gallaudet student returned at age 30 as a pitcher because of Pride. Read the inspiring story at USA Today.

YouTube Auto-Captioning

A New Meme Is Brewing: YouTube CaptionFail. This is one of those situations where you wonder is it good to have captioning even though a lot of it is messed up or no captioning.

I tried to autocaption two of my previously captioned videos. I took off the captions and let YouTube try its hand. Well, so much for a fun opportunity to comparing the original captioned video and YouTube’s. YouTube’s autocaptioning failed in both cases. Maybe my accent was too much for it.

OK, I’ll take a little something over nothing. Heck, you can get a lot of laughs by searching for youtube caption fail in Twitter. Latest from YouTube on captioning and YouTube’s autocaptioning instructions. Also, here’s a blog post about Google’s Smart Captioning Move.

Just last night, I caught a funny caption mistake. The caption said, “A strange couple” in reference to Jin and Sun on Lost. I said to my husband, “Oh my gosh… that’s so politically incorrect.”

“It’s ‘estranged,'” corrected my husband. And that made sense.

Talk about a bad typo.

More captionfails:

What are some of your favorite captionfails?

Links: Captioning, Olympics and 508

STC AccessAbility SIG has two great articles, What is Unclear About Captioning and Olympian Anger — Is It So Hard to Remember Accessibility (amen!). More on Vancouver Olympic Websites from 456 Berea St.
Mike Paciello provides a short update on the Section 508 / Section 255 Guidelines.
Thanks to Laura Carlson for all the links. What have you read lately?

FCC Announces New Closed Captioned Complaint Rules

Jack Foley created the "CC in a TV" ...

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Source: Deafnetwork
On Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, two important new closed captioning rules were published in the Federal Register and went into effect. The new rules require immediate attention by video programming distributors — including broadcast television stations — to ensure that they respond promptly to viewer complaints regarding closed captioning issues, and to ensure that they timely file contact information with the FCC by March 22, 2010.
As detailed in Davis Wright Tremaine’s November 2008 advisory and subsequent January 2009 advisory update, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Declaratory Ruling and Order in late 2008 that, among other things, imposed new requirements on video programming distributors with respect to fielding inquiries and complaints about closed captioning. While the implementation of some aspects of those rules was delayed initially, with Friday’s publication in the Federal Register, two of those are now in effect. The new rules, and the obligations they impose on video programming distributors, are discussed below.
Streamlined complaint process
First, the Commission’s earlier Order revised the complaint process for complaints involving closed captioning rules, and with the Feb. 19 publication in the Federal Register, the new complaint procedures are effective immediately. The revised complaint procedures are as follows:

  • Viewers who believe that a video programming distributor has failed to meet its captioning obligations may now file a complaint directly with either the FCC or with the program distributor, e.g., cable operator, television broadcaster or DBS provider. (Previously, viewers were required to first file complaints with distributors.)
  • If a complaint is filed with a program distributor, then the distributor must respond to the viewer complaint in writing within 30 days of receipt. If a video programming distributor fails to respond to the complainant within 30 days, or if the complainant is unsatisfied with the response, the viewer may then file a complaint with the FCC within 30 days.
  • If a complaint is filed directly with the FCC, the FCC will forward the complaint to the program distributor, which will be required to respond to the FCC in writing within 30 days of receipt. (Previously, distributors were required to respond to FCC complaints within 15 days.) In responding to a complaint, the video programming distributor must provide the Commission with sufficient records and documentation to demonstrate that it has complied with the Commission’s rules.
  • Viewer complaints must be in writing and must be filed within 60 days of the alleged violation (whereas previously complaints could be filed within the calendar quarter in which the alleged violation occurred). The complaint also must state with specificity the alleged Commission rule violated and include some evidence of the alleged rule violation.

New captioning contact requirements
Second, in order to facilitate the ability for viewers to (1) raise immediate captioning concerns (such as garbled or missing captions), and (2) file captioning complaints, video programming distributors must publicize appropriate contact information and also provide contact information to the Commission.
To assist viewers with immediate captioning concerns while they are watching a program, video programming distributors must publish a telephone number, fax number and e-mail address for purposes of receiving and responding immediately to any closed captioning concerns. The revised rules require that “customers using this dedicated contact information must be able to reach someone, either directly or indirectly, who can address the consumer’s captioning concerns.”
Under the new rule, distributors must ensure that any staff reachable through this contact information has the capability to immediately respond to and address viewers’ concerns, and in situations where the captioning problem does not reside with the distributor, the staff person receiving the inquiry should refer the matter appropriately for resolution.
Distributors are not required to alter their hours when they have staff available, but if calls are placed when staff is not available, such calls and inquiries must be returned or addressed within 24 hours. The FCC also expects distributors to take measures to accommodate calls placed through a Telecommunications Relay Service operator.
In addition, distributors also must separately designate a contact person for the receipt of written (non-immediate) captioning complaints. This contact person must have primary responsibility for captioning issues and compliance with the FCC rules. The contact information must include the contact person’s name, title/office, telephone number, fax number, postal mailing address and e-mail address. A distributor’s contact information must be included on the distributor’s Web site (if it has a Web site), in billing invoices (if any) and in telephone directories (if the distributor already directly advertises or has a paid expanded listing, i.e., more than merely name, number and location in standard font, in a telephone directory).
The FCC will maintain a list of video programming distributors’ contact information for purposes of resolving closed captioning issues. Accordingly, distributors–including cable systems, broadcast television stations and satellite television providers–must file their contact information with the FCC by March 22, 2010. Distributors must provide the required contact information both for handling immediate concerns and for receiving written captioning complaints.
The best way for video programming distributors to file this information with the FCC is to visit its Web site and submit the information online. The Commission’s Web site contains a detailed form with step-by-step instructions. Alternatively, the contact information can be e-mailed directly to the FCC’s Disability Rights Office at:
Video programming distributors must keep their contact information current and update both their Web sites and the Commission’s database within 10 business days of any changes.
Finally, the Commission has stayed the effectiveness of the rule that would require video programming distributors to forward closed captioning complaints to a third party in certain circumstances. Because of the potential conflict with laws prohibiting the disclosure of personally identifiable information to third parties, the Commission has stayed the implementation of this rule until it can review the issue further and potentially issue a notice of proposed rulemaking.
Additional information!input.action?form_page=2000C

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Olympics Continue to Falter with Web Site

Cropped transparent version of :Image:Olympic ...

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Does it ever end? Apparently, the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver has not learned anything from the Olympic-sized accessibility problems of the past.

Joe Clark provides the details.

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Two Different Experiences in Talking to Children

Children in a Primary Education School in Paris

Image via Wikipedia

I thought I had blogged this story, but only found bits pieces. So here’s the whole story as my daughter remembers it.

I’d like to think that I was a unique individual from birth. I learned, at a very young age, that my family was different, but my parents instilled a sense of pride in me. Everything I was, no matter how it compared to others, was something I could wear proudly. My mother is deaf, and this never struck me as strange.

However, in second grade when children still loved to see their parents anywhere they went, mothers and fathers would come into class to read aloud. My mother doesn’t know American Sign Language (ASL), nor does she need it. She reads lips with crisp perfection; even I couldn’t help but to imitate it in my early years. She also speaks clearly, of course with a slight accent, but as time goes on, it lessens. I never heard any strange accent, only the sound of my mother’s voice.

This isn’t what my peers heard. They mocked her openly in front of me, and asked why she sounded so weird. What a blow this was, the first time that anything about me was “strange” and unaccepted. I wasn’t ashamed, though. To this day my mother remains an incredibly accomplished woman and writer. I get my language abilities straight from her. (Unfortunately, I acquired my father’s penmanship.)

What’s strange is that I think I brought a book with a deaf character. But what was different between talking to my daughter’s class and my son’s class is that in my son’s class — I opened with an explanation of the deafness rather than letting the book do the talking.

I accept that children and even some adults will look at me in a strange way when my mouth opens and the words spill. But I do not accept my children’s classmates making fun of me in front of my kids. That puts the burden on my kids for something that has nothing to do with them.

After a great experience in talking to two first grade classes this year, I hope to speak to more. It was college / career week. So I volunteered to talk to the kids about going to college, how college helped me on my career path, adjusting to college and making a career. I explained some of the barriers and how technology has erased many of them.

I believe education is the path to understanding and acceptance.

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