We think this is so important, we added a permanent page to the site.

In the near future, we’ll go into more detail about why accessibility matters so much to us (and for the internet), but for the moment I’ve copied the text from the page here:

Accessibility is the primary motivator behind Universal Subtitles. Our goal is to see an exponential number of videos become more accessible: to those with hearing and visual disabilities; across language barriers; and even around literacy barriers (via dubbed audio).

Under the headline of “accessibility” is a vast and complex group of issues. We are pursuing accessibility for Universal Subtitles across multiple levels. The following is a partial list of the accessibility goals on our development roadmap:

  • Making our website and subtitling widget localizable (i.e. translating the tools into different languages)
  • Adding support for non-western characters and languages
  • Support for both captions and subtitles*
  • Support for alternate audio tracks (i.e. dubbing)
  • Ability to read subtitle text to speech
  • Accessibility audit for the toolset and website (eg. navigation, keyboard interaction, etc)
  • Computer assisted translation

If you have additional areas of accessibility where you’d like to see us focus, please be in touch.

Finally, we want to recognize the many people have been working tirelessly on these issues for far longer than we have and have laid important groundwork that makes our project possible.

* In the United States, ‘Captions’ refers to subtitles that include both words being spoken and descriptions of non-verbal sounds (music, sound effects, etc). Captioning is especially important for people who are hard of hearing. In many countries the word ‘subtitles’ or ‘HoH (hard of hearing) subtitles’ is used to describe captions.

12 thoughts on “A Note on Accessibility

  1. Captions are captions and are not subtitles of any kind anywhere.

    Essentially everything you have listed (save for authoring-tool accessibility) is actually in the field of localization or internationalization. Alternate audio tracks are just dubbing? Blind people who listen to audio description may differ with that statement.

    Precision of terminology is important. Let us know when you get there.

    Also, opening single quotation mark is not an opening quotation mark in the English language.

    1. I’ll be the first to admit that we have a lot to learn. There’s no doubt that we’ll make political and grammatical errors from time to time.

      Luckily, I have full confidence that you’ll keep us in line ;)

    2. I’m glad you’re here, Joe. I was hoping that this project could get some clarity/understanding of the issues of captioning vs. subtitling and descriptive audio, and I’m not expert enough to explain them very well!

  2. I’m loving this project! But there doesn’t seem much that I can do now. This sounds like an awesome project as I said, but I’m just an ordinary person. Is there some way I could help without having any special skills related to this? Perhaps subtitling in English? Also, I think there should be a way to create a list of things on this website or create a new website, where you can choose from the list what you would like to subtitle. That way, it’s not all up to the video makers, and people who want to help out others(like me) can have a chance to know what needs doing.

    1. Hi nilla,

      We’re going to have something for folks to try out very soon! Thanks for your encouragement, and rest assured we’re going to try to make things collaborative so that it doesn’t all rest on the video makers.

  3. I can see the usefulness of this endeavor in the future. Hopefully, people who are much able to materialize this aim will be participating in a manner helpful to everybody. If we talk about accessibility, it really matters. I like the note in there that you will also consider the non-western languages. This will really expand the usefulness of the Internet and international communication will be simplified. This is indeed great!

  4. I have to agree with Joe Clark above. You have your hearts in the right place. Follow standards where ever possible. Inventing an entirely new system may actually fragment efforts more. “Invention” can occur when using incorrect terminology within well established fields of captioning and subtitling.

    Regarding accessibility – it looks like you are implementing this in Flash. If you are, and not providing alternative access for other standards, you are not providing true accessibility. There is a rapidly growing class of devices that eschew Flash for reasons we will not get into here. Please consider this when implementing your system.

    I’m deaf, and I’d really hate not to be able to get access just because I’m on my preferred platform, which does not support Flash. (or Flash has not been made available on)

    Another point. If you are within the US, consider throwing your support behind the Internet closed captioning bills (http://captionaction2.blogspot.com/) which will make your job MUCH easier, mandating content providers to caption their material online.

    Also consider petitioning content providers to make existing captions and subtitles available no matter where the content is made available (TV shows not captioned on Hulu, iTunes, etc. when they are captioned when aired on TV/cable, and have captions/subtitles when sold in DVD/BluRay form).

    Last, you may want to clarify your mission a bit. As a deaf person, “Universal Subtitles” just tells me that you are focusing on language translation, not making access available to those who really need it – the hearing impaired/Deaf/Deafblind/hard of hearing communities. A subtitle without the necessary audio information will throw up barriers to content consumption for these groups because important audio information will be left out. A Spanish person requesting Portuguese subtitles will not care if the translation leaves out audio cues such as which speaker is speaking, environmental noises (door knocking, dog barking, gunshot, applause, female solo), music/ lyrics (“spooky music”, “The rockets’ red glare . . . ” rather than just “music”) that go a long way towards setting the mood and understanding of the video content.

    I do applaud you for undertaking this massive endeavor, and hope that you will take this feedback to heart. :)

    1. Hi R.L.,

      To address some of your questions, we’re not using Flash, except in cases where it’s our only option due to browser limitations. Otherwise we use the html5 video tag. The vast majority of the interface is being done in javascript.

      Early on, we’re trying to stay focused on building out our toolset, but we’re definitely in support of movements and legislation that make media more accessible! Also, thanks for pointing that bill out — I’ll definitely check it out in more detail (many of us are based in the US).

      Our long-term goal is to satisfy the needs you mention and we really appreciate your feedback.

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