Vlogs and the Deaf-Blind

Is it just me or is the Deaf Blind community even further from the other half of our communities than ever before?

With the amazing speed of advancement in technology that enables Deaf people to grow as a community and be propelled out in the forefront, it’s becoming more and more difficult for the Deaf Blind community to catch up or even stay on the same track.

By advancements in Deaf technology, I mean pagers (Sidekicks and Blackberries), Videophone devices, hard-to-read blogs that are also undecipherable on computer Braille displays, and even innovative inventions to bring the world into the classroom is more restricting than ever.

Now there is a heated debate going on. Should Vlogs by the signing community be captioned or transcribed? This debate had been between the Deaf and the Hearing communities for some time now, but as read on www.ridorlive.com in his recent article featuring Ella Mae Lentz’s latest vlog that basically declared that signing vlogs should NOT be captioned, therein jumps the Deaf Blind community in the debating pool.

Should we caption our vlogs? Should we incite a laborous journey in the vlogging world by writing a word-by-word transcription of our signed rants? Documenting every word we sign in ASL into English is indeed laborous but do people realize how many others this would benefit?

First of all, the debate would be steered towards how Hearing people have oppressed the Deaf community for so long, especially with the latest decision not to enforce captioning by companies who feel they are financially tight. YouTube and scores of other web-based video-storing sites do not enforce their customers to caption their vlogs, since there’s no policy in the FCC that exists. So Deaf people fump it and be like the Hearing population and react in an ignorant manner that reflects years and years of oppression by the other dominant group.

Deaf Blind people are now affected by this debate. There are roughly 800,000 Deaf Blind children & adults living in the United States and extending to over 2 million worldwide, and a large percentage of the American Deaf Blind population has grown up in a Deaf community. I grew up in a Deaf institution for 15 years, contributed to the Deaf communities in several states & provinces and especially several countries worldwide, attended Gallaudet for several years and now am employed as a teacher for Deaf immigrants as well as an employer for the local Deaf centre in Ottawa. I’m all things Deaf, including my robust pride in the signing community that has literally raised me to be this leader many know to be today. I even gave my heart & soul to the Gallaudet protests in May & October. This is just to tell you what a big part I am of the Deaf community. Yet… I find myself further and further apart from this community and joined with me are thousands of Deaf Blind people who have grown up in the same background as I have.

Just to mention one thing that is keeping our communities farther apart: Deaf people are buying videophones like crazy and in the process they decide to throw out their TTYs. But little do we realize that the Deaf Blind community relies heavily on the TTY to communicate with the world outside of their homes. The Ultratec TTY models also come in refreshable braille displays, meaning that a fully blind DB person could call a sighted Deaf person directly without any problem. But more and more Deaf households don’t have TTYs and TTY relay services on the decline, who are we to call? States are not forced to cover costs of expensive Braille computers for the DB because the ADA does not cover this area, only for the sighted Deaf and Hearing Blind. In this wake, we are more lonely than ever.

It just gets easier for the Deaf person to forget that there is an attached minority community in theirs and often in the process of technology evolution the DB are not invited to share their opinions or ideas. Strangely enough, the Hearing Sighted are more considerate of Hearing Blind. For instance…. I came across a site maybe a year ago that capitalized on a new idea: pictures online could be sent to this site and its thousands of members could “describe” the picture for fun and the end result would be screened by the site’s human editors, then sent back to the owner of the picture. Point: The description can be read in refreshable Braille displays. Some pictures aren’t described in writing, but rather voiced. For the tactile of me, I cannot remember this site???

More instances: Walmart just introduced speakers on debit-card machines by the cashier so that the hearing blind could listen and do their own checkouts. The same goes for millions of ATMs – there is Braille but no popup braille displays to replace the voice so that the Deaf Blind could read. To cross the street is a challenge for the Deaf Blind as there’s no vibrator visibly everywhere where it should be, but there’s of course the voiced warnings when the hand flashes or the white man’s flashing. Walk! Walk! Stop! Stop!

Now…. it really, really, really bothers me as much as it excites me that the vlogging world is fast expanding. How would the Deaf Blind (the low-vision, the near-sighted, the far-sighted, the legally blind, the fully blind….) be able to remain in tune with the very community we grew up in? Most of us don’t have pagers. Most of us don’t have videophones. Some of us don’t have Braille computers because we cannot afford it. Many of us stay at home because we are out of tune with the bustling Deaf community that’s right next door – and because states know they aren’t breaking any laws when they choose not to fund support service provider programs. But that’s for another blog.

I know some of you may hint at the irony of posting it on a hard-to-read blogsite in gray, small font – do me a favor, go to your browser’s View > Text Size> Largest and hopefully it’ll be large enough. My new blogsite is in construction… (my other website has much better reading accessibility but nonmembers of Xanga cannot comment… www.xanga.com/tactilejunkie)

Although I feel this blog would have been better signed out in a vlog, I thought I would probably start by “transcribing” it.. the old fashioned way. I want the DB community to read this and tell the Deaf community just exactly how they feel.

I want the Deaf community to do the same thing. Do you think vlog captioning and/or transcribing can be a reality? Do you think it should happen or not? Do you agree or disagree with the gap between the Deaf and DeafBlind communities being more further apart than ever?

Tactile love.

p.s.: as a friend just harshly said recently: i make a habit out of bitching and whining without bringing solutions to the table.

well, with that said, i agree/disagree. in the past, i’ve always took the initative of bringing solutions and ideas… sometimes vent without offering anything to solve it. this is a venting session, in the hopes someone out there would read this and offer ideas/solutions. i am no web genius so my ideas are far from html development!

but in the meanwhile i’ve been thinking about transcriptions and how it would work.. also how deaf and deafblind vloggers can make the vlogs easy to see and understand.

in the meanwhile, do post comments/ideas/solutions. much appreciated.

merci beaucoup.

This entry was posted in Advocacy, Rants, Technology & Equipment, Videos. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Vlogs and the Deaf-Blind

  1. Banjo says:

    I can understand the frustration you’re dealing with. Completely understandable and you have the right to vent about the lack of accessibility to the vlog especially when you’re deaf-blind.

    I’m just curious, are the deaf-blind surfers able to read the captions from Google Video? Just wanted to know because it’s not burnt onto the screen, it’s a text format embedded into the video clip.

    My vlog entries are on Google Video, and you can view them here at my blog, http://banjosworld.blogspot.com/search/label/Vlog

    I asked this question a while ago and didn’t get an answer, hope you will be able to. Thanks.

  2. mishkazena says:

    Thanks, Coco for this thought-provoking article. I have two questions while I ponder on other points you covered here

    Is my blog accessible to DeafBlind? I hadn’t thought about that before.

    I am puzzled by your comment regarding ADA not covering DB, just the sighted deaf or the hearing blind. This is the first time I’ve heard this, so can you clarify that furhter?

    Bitching and whining? nah, your concerns are very legitimate and if people keep quiet, how would we know if there is a problem? You are doing just fine.

  3. Barinthus says:

    Excellent blog full of valid concerns. We definitely do need to figure out a solution to this – it’d defeat the whole idea of Deafhood if the sighted Deaf were to leave behind our blind Deaf brothers and sisters behind.

  4. MikeS says:

    I appreciate you sharing this. I recognize the irony now. I don’t care what other says about vlog subtitling, this is the Internet, not society. Old school rules out! Different rules apply here. I like to see access and information sharing and open communication. I didn’t realize that the deaf-blind prefer to magnify on the subtitles on the vlogs, interesting. I suppose transcripts are helpful. Need tips to make blog visual-friendly.

  5. Jared Evans says:

    I agree with you on every point that you made. Being a technie myself, I know how laborious and time consuming it is to create subtitled video clips. Not only do you have to translate to English but you also have to break up the sentences and time code them all. This is why I don’t push for this advanced feature among the amateur vloggers.

    For the vlogs that I have created, I usually type up a rough script that I use to practice before starting the actual video capture. This draft script can be easily changed into a better transcript that I can post with my vlog.

    In addition to making it easier for Deaf-Blind to read my post, my vlog post can be also read on pagers if someone happens to visit my blog while away from the computer.

    The text of the transcript will be very useful for Google and other search engines when they index my post of the vlog/transcript. My transcripted vlog will enjoy a significant search results advantage over other vlogs that don’t offer a transcript.

    It’s all about maximizing the potential exposure to my blog posts and is largely dependent upon the vlogger him/herself if they have the desire/time to do so.

    If the vlogger doesn’t want to do the translation for various reasons, that’s his/her decision and it should be respected. I’m saying that these ASL vlogs will be at a disadvantage for searching/archival purposes.

  6. ToddE says:

    I’ll echo Banjo’s question. I, too, caption my videos on Google Video and wonder if the Deaf/Blind people can ‘read’ the captions?

    Also, do I know you? I assume you went to Gallaudet? What years did you go?

  7. Jean Boutcher says:

    I strongly believe in equal accessibility for all human beings.
    Therefore, I wish to double-assure you that I can perfectly well understand your frustrations and concerns about the lack of either or both CC and transcripts. I hope we will work harder to find a way to fully access Deaf-Blind people to Vlog. Let us hope to find an interpreter who understands richly idomized ASL enough to translate into English.

    Bonne chance,
    Jean Boutcher

  8. The Other Christine says:

    Hey Coco, I’m so glad you brought this up. This is long overdue! I know of several DB folks around town that has heard of vlogs but were unable to “see” it because of no transcripts included.
    FYI, captions are not helpful – because captions does not show up in braille displays, so it’s better to have transcripts.
    You’re absolutely right – the DB folks are just as much of the Deaf community and they shouldn’t be left out at all. Barnithus said it very well – it defeats the main purpose of Deafhood if the sighted Deaf leave behind the DB.

  9. BEG says:

    It’s one of the reasons I always push for some sort of subtitling or transcript to go with vlogs…

  10. moi says:

    Thank you so much for the entry! It’s a much-needed wake-up call or reminder for many of us. I’m one of the few people I know who have kept my TTY – which I did, because that’s the only way to call 911. Good to know that I’m also making myself more accessible. 🙂 Also, this entry makes a very good argument for transcribing vlogs rather than captioning them. Hope more vloggers take this to heart and transcribe rather than caption. Thanks, Coco!!! *hug* even tho’ we’ve never met.

  11. Janis says:

    Don’t worry about bitching — sometimes it’s its own goal, reminding people that you’re there, and just releasing steam.

    I like the transcript idea personally and when I get good enough at ASL to start making little vlogs, I’ll remember to transcript. Captions I’m less fond of — trying to input two languages at once makes my brain get bendy. But transcripts are a great idea; you can choose to see them, read them before or after if you want to practice, or use them for accessibility.

    The more I think about it, the more I really prefer transcripts to captions for short video things like vlogs. (For movies or longer stuff, captions are probably better.)

  12. Proud Canadian says:

    Coco, I feel the same way ’cause I am deaf-blind too. At times, it is so disappointing for me when the lighting condition/exposure in vlog is not adequate, hence handshape in fingerspelling, signing and facial expression are not that easy to grasp in ASL. Somes they looked too reddish, blueish or in few of them, out of focus. Admittingly enough, I wish there is a technology avialable for the vloggers to easily add the captions or transcripts to theirs for added accessibility to those who are the deaf-blind Internet surfers.

    I have been enjoying immensely with your blogs ever since. Thanks and take care.

    Scott Burch

  13. Meredith says:

    I have tried to caption spoken video as well as signed video. Speech is very difficult because the timing must be so precise, signing is slightly easier because it’s slower but they are still both very difficult to caption.

    I think providing a transcript is an appropriate solution. There are already lots of ways for a deaf-blind person to read a piece of text, and you can choose English words that will best match the emotions of what you’re signing. I transcribe all my signing vlogs because I have non-signing friends who want to understand them too, and that also makes them accessible to deaf-blind people.

    Captioning is hard, but transcripts are easy. Why WOULDN’T someone transcribe their vlog for deaf-blind readers?

  14. Valarie Tarrence says:

    You make a wonderful point…vlogs need to be more accessible. I am a hearing person, and I read the blogs and watch the vlogs to better understand what is really happening in the Deaf community. Even though I know sign language sometimes what I don’t catch in the signing and be gained in the transcript. I prefer transcripts rather than captioning or subtitles. It is just easier. Maybe with the help of interpreters transcripts can be offered more. Also you have students that could work together as a group and decipher through the vlog and send the transcript to the person who made the vlog for approval and posting. This would help student interpreters improve their skills. I certainly would be willing to help out in that way.

  15. cheryl says:

    I had know idea there was such a conflict or isolation between the Deaf and the Deafblind. Or that it is such a good idea to keep a TTY hooked up if needing to call 911. Interesting! Transcribing ASL into English would be time consuming. But, would be good practice for back translation of the ASL Vlogs into English.


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