Why NO Live Captions During Online Emergency Announcements?

Red bar saying "Where are captions?!" on a viral video about a not qualified interpreter in an yellow shirt during an emergency announcement about Irma

There was a video by Fox 13 News Tampa Bay via Facebook yesterday that featured a man in a bright yellow shirt what turned out to be not a professional interpreter but someone who knew some ASL. This caused a big furor in the Deaf community.

Of course, bad interpreters or folks knowing just some sign language are not acceptable when it comes to relaying emergency information. However, there was little to no mention about the lack of live captions. MAJORITY of deaf and hard of hearing people DON’T know sign language and would not understand interpreters, so they need captions – especially during emergency announcements.

According to TDI presentation by Chris Soukup, a CEO of CSD, there is a million of deaf people in USA who use sign language, but there are 40-60 million of deaf and hard of hearing people who don’t know sign language. That SIGNIFICANT population size is often left out during emergency announcements. It happened during blizzard announcements and again during the recent hurricane Harvey and Irma announcements.

You may say why not turn on captions on TV. The thing is that more people are watching online videos than TV or not having TV at home. TV is becoming a thing of the past. Most of online videos are not captioned at all – especially during emergency announcements. You may say why not turn on closed captioned feature. The thing is that many video players don’t have captioning feature to turn on captions or if they do have the feature, captions are not shown at all or are bad auto captions.

So what to do during emergency announcements to make the majority of non signing deaf and hard of hearing folks included? I suggest that a LED display is set up INSIDE every briefing room in FRONT of camera. It’s not a perfect solution but it would TEMPORARILY solve the issues of streaming live captions online or dealing with certain players that don’t have closed captioning features. If a sign language interpeter is signing inside a briefing room, a LED display with live captioned is also needed to be in that same room. This is how it could look like.

Deafness does not equal to sign language – there’s a great variety of communication abilities and preferences of deaf and hard of hearing people. So let’s not forget that SIGNIFICANT population size of NON-signing folks who need captions during emergencies.

If you need to know how to better provide access via live captions during emergency announcements, contact us for consulting and training.