Monday, May 14, 2007

Clothes Cap Shun

Since we now live in a place that necessitates keeping our windows wide open 24/7, I taken to watching TV with the closed captioning visible so we can keep the volume down and not blast our neighbors with our choice of programming. Thank god deaf folks are intelligent, because at times you have to be a genius to figure out what the heck the typed version of the program's dialogue means.

Live shows are the worst offenders. At least his makes some sense as the transcriber has to act like a court reporter and type as the audio portion of the show is first spoken. So it's somewhat understandable when the captioner misses some asides, or loses track of lines when it's a panel show with multiple people speaking at the same time. But closed captioning is just as big a problem when there's only one speaker. And heaven forbid someone on the show speaks in a language other than English. It's pretty much the same when a foreign language is spoken -- sometimes the actual language is identified while others just say, "speaking native language." Sadly, none of these errors are ever corrected before the show is rebroadcast at a later time.

Not that taped or syndicated shows are much better. At best, the captioning is inconsistent. For example, the show "House," which uses the same opening it had when the show began several years ago, has selected a haunting piece of music to play during the title sequence. Some weeks the music is identified as "Teardrop" (by Massive Attack) but other weeks the captioning just shows the few musical notes to indicate there's some music being played. At worst, captioning is based solely on the captioner's knowledge of the world and phonetics. A great example from a taped show on recently occurred when the capital city of Somalia was referred to in the captioning as "Mow God Dish You." Don't these people ever really listen to the shows they transcribe?

The Americans with Disabilities Act ensured that the deaf community would have greater access to the benefits -- and burdens -- of television programming by forcing TV manufacturers and programmers to close caption the shows that air. But deaf folks will never share in the same access to television enjoyed by the hearing until all closed captioning is accurate and complete. And they should have to settle for nothing less.

No comments: