Closed-Captions Coming to the Internet

With all the interest and excitement about streaming video over the Internet, one detail is often overlooked. Some individuals with disabilities — particularly those with limited hearing — are closed out from this video content because it does not include closed captioning. Broadcast television provides it and most movie DVDs offer English sub-titles, but not on the Internet.

As part of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, the FCC was charged with creating a Video Programming and Emergency Access Advisory Committee (VPAAC) to address this and other problems. Last week, the committee submitted its report, which starts a six-month clock running at the end of which the FCC has to come up with rules for closed captions on Internet video content.

We’re probably at least a year or more away from the time when closed captions will be available for content on the Internet. In the beginning, it will likely be limited to television shows that already are produced with closed captions for broadcast. And it will take time for the hardware to catch up with the technology. The new rules will likely include user-controls for the caption features, and add-on devices will be needed for a while until these control features become standard in televisions and other devices. But the good news is that progress is being made, and a significant part of the population will eventually get better access to this content.