Another Airline Lacks Captioning

In early December of last year, America’s Next Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco was on an American Airlines flight shortly before winning the competition. The in-flight entertainment did not have a closed captioning feature.

You may recall our post about it, but to recap, Nyle was not only the only male contestant on the show, but he is also the only deaf contestant in the history of the show.

Nyle took to social media to voice his frustration, and many other deaf and hard of hearing Americans joined in:

Nyle DiMarco American Airlines Tweet VITAC Closed Captioning


Since then, not only did Nyle become America’s Next Top Model and use his platform to become an advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing communitiebut he also won Dancing with the Stars, and it seems that American Airlines now offers closed captions on more movie and television titles.

However, another deaf celebrity and advocate, Marlee Matlin, brought the spotlight to another airline via Twitter:

Marlee Matlin


American Airlines initially responded to Nyle with an erroneous claim about captions on different screen sizes, which was eventually deleted and apologized for the misinformation.

Marlee also brings up an excellent point: Most programs and movies already have closed captions, especially if they aired on television.

Delta has yet to respond publicly at all with any excuse:

Marlee Matlin Delta Airlines Closed Captioning VITAC


Join us in urging Delta Airlines to offer closed captioning with their in-flight entertainment, as millions of Americans rely on captions  for basic accessibility and enjoyment of media.

Return for updates. We’ll be following this story.

By Brittany Bender

Gamers with Disabilities Get Twitch Spotlight

Twitch Showcases Gamers with Disabilties, Beta Tests Live Closed Captioning

According to a study, over 155 million Americans play video games three or more hours a week. This includes console gaming, and ever-growing mobile and mobile-app gaming.

According to the most recent census data, nearly 1 in 5 Americans are living with a disability. This week, Twitch, a video streaming platform known for video gaming, is highlighting gamers with disabilities to showcase how they adapt to play video games and stream themselves playing live.

The event is being brought to Twitch by advocacy group, AbleGamers, whose mission is to “…improve the overall quality of life for those with disabilities through the power of video games.”

Twitch is also making strides in accessibility by beta testing their live closed captioning feature. AbleGamers also assisted in testing this while they streamed themselves playing Rocket League.

Twitch_Able Gamers Closed Caption Beta
Screenshot from AbleGamers August 18th stream of Rocket League Beta Testing Twitch Live Closed Captions

Some Twitch streams draw in hundreds and thousands of viewers at a time, and with over 50 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans, closed captions on Twitch would enable them to enjoy watching or broadcasting gaming even more than they already do. A petition on was created last year to urge Twitch to release a live closed captioning option for E3, the gaming industry’s annual trade show that highlights the best and newest games for the upcoming year. Many live Twitch streams are featured during E3, and during many other gaming trade shows.

You can check out the rest of the week’s Twitch AbleGamer schedule and learn about how gamers with different disabilities integrate their gaming systems, play and excel popular video game titles.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be following developments of Twitch’s closed captioning feature closely, and hope that it is released in full soon.

By Brittany Bender

“Hear Me. See Me. Know Me.” — An inspiring video about living with disabilities

Deaf-Blind teen, Brittany Winkleman, inspires many with video of personal narrative.

Brittany, left, works with aid in the classroom.
Brittany, left, works with her aid in the classroom.

Differences are a crucial aspect of what makes our culture as rich as it is, and yet, at times, they can be the biggest barrier to easy living within it. Brittany Winkleman, 18, has been “different” since she was born. Being both deaf and blind, Brittany is no stranger to adversity when it comes to her own disabilities and the assumptions people make about her. Despite the challenges she has faced, Brittany, a dedicated student with a passion for digital media and graphic arts, has never subscribed to the notion that her disabilities will keep her from doing what she loves. As of the video, posted in May of 2015, Brittany was preparing to graduate and attend college in the fall.

In a touching and inspiring video titled “Hear me. See me. Know me.” that she made for her senior project, Brittany walks viewers through her journey, staring when she was just two months old, with poignant clarity and optimism. There are clips of classmates, teachers, and aids who have been an integral part in Brittany’s success. She also touches on her own struggles with her disabilities, and how she had to come to think of herself in relation to her fellow classmates.

Left: Brittany poses with fellow classmate.Right: Brittany at work in the production studio for her digital arts class.
Left: Brittany poses with fellow classmate. Right: Brittany at work in the production studio for her digital arts class.


In addition to her personal narrative, Brittany explains some of the technology and tools that help her overcome the obstacles that her low vision and hearing loss present. Winkleman says in the video, “I can do anything, but I have to do it differently”.  At VITAC, we are dedicated to providing services to people like Brittany the world over, and are proud to be able to contribute, in whatever way we can, to enabling those with disabilities to live their lives on their own terms, be it in a slightly different way. This story was brought through Described and Captioned Media Program, an organization  funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the National Association of the Deaf whose mission is to “promote and provide equal access to communication and learning through described and captioned educational media”.  VITAC is a proud DCMP-approved caption vendor, and is thrilled that DCMP could provide a platform for Brittany to share her story.

Take a look at the video here made available with both audio description and closed captions through DCMP’s site.

Brittany leaves us with words to live by saying, “When you meet people who are like me, don’t assume they can’t do it, let them show you [they can]”.

Thank you, Brittany, for your powerful words, and we applaud your continued success.

By: Tori Trimm

Office of Civil Rights Ensures Website Accessibility

11 Educational Organizations Reach Settlements Over Web Accessibility Complaints

Keyboard Accessibility ButtonOn June 29th, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced that agreements had been reached with 11 different educational organizations in seven states and one territory, which had had complaints filed against them involving website accessibility. They were concerned with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of ADA—specifically with online services and programs. The settlements involved:

  • Juneau, Alaska, School District
  • Guam Department of Education
  • Montana School for the Deaf and Blind
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico, Public Schools
  • Washoe County, Nevada, School District
  • Davidson Academy of Nevada
  • Nevada Department of Education
  • Oregon Department of Education
  • Granite, Utah, School District
  • Bellingham, Washington, School District
  • The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The most common problems included absence of alt text on critical images, navigation barring blind and low vision users from using the website (exclusively requiring mouse movement for access), color combinations that made text difficult to read, and inaccurately captioned videos. The complaints led to investigations for each cited organization.

The OCR did not complete these investigations as all 11 educational organizations expressed interest in resolving the cases voluntarily.  The resolutions look relatively similar, though the timelines for implementation of the agreed solutions differ slightly.

First and foremost, all parties must affirm their commitment  to ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities equal to those of others to enjoy the websites’ programs, services, and activities, especially those delivered online.

9 of the 11 organizations are then required to perform a full audit of their website to assess any and all barriers to use for visitors with disabilities. Both Bellingham School District and Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Institution are not required to audit their websites. They are permitted to internally assess the site and report on proposed changes.

Following the audit, the steps are as follows:

  • Create policies and procedures that ensure accessibility for all newly developed site content.
  • Format all new website content and functionality to be accessible to people with disabilities
  • Form a plan for prioritizing and correcting all current barriers to accessibility on the site
  • Post a notice to those with disabilities instructing how to request access to online information or functionality that is currently inaccessible
  • Implement and consistently provide website accessibility training to any and all appropriate personnel

Read the full press release here.

These settlements are a huge win for the world of accessibility and will hopefully set a precedent for organizations (especially those in educational fields) to make web accessibility a priority.  As our world becomes all the more dependent on websites and online databases as a primary source of information and content, accessibility becomes all the more necessary.

To read more about the policies currently in place to protect the rights on those with disabilities, check our regulations page. For more updates coming out of the accessibility circuit, visit VITAC’s Accessibility News blog page!

By: Tori Trimm
 Intersection: Websites and Accessibility



VITAC’s M-Enabling Takeaways and Wrap-Up

VITAC Learns New About New Technologies, Opportunities and Challenges in the World of Accessible Media


Our blog post last week was just a preview of the M-Enabling Summit in Washington, DC held June 13-14, and attended by VITAC VP of Marketing Heather York, and Marketing Analyst Brittany Bender.

In Monday’s keynote address, Karen Peltz Strauss, Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, introduced Sen. Ed Markey (D.-Mass), “because of his work, we are in a place where  ability is no longer an afterthought.”

As discussed in last week’s post, Senator Markey discussed about 25 years ago, the ADA required physical ramps to be placed on curbs for wheelchairs, and it ended up helping everybody from parents with baby strollers to delivery people with carts. He noted similarities between these regulations and online media accessibility  and even referred to them as, “online ramps.” If everything online is made accessible, it will end up helping everyone. This was a theme throughout the summit.

The first parallel session of the day was Media on the Internet: Accessibility Challenges and Opportunities. Panelists included:

  • Chet Cooper, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, ABILITY Magazine
  • Peter Korn, Accessibility Architect, Amazon Lab126,
  • Mike Paciello, Founding Partner, The Paciello Group and WebAble.TV
  • Joel Snyder, Ph.D., President, Audio Description Associates LLC
  • Claude Stout, Executive Director, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI).
Web Accessibility_1
Joel Snyder, Ph.D., President, Audio Description Associates LLC weighs in on web accessibility online.

While many opportunities for accessibility were discussed such as captioning and audio description, the challenges and potential solutions were prominent. One of the challenges noted by Mike Paciello was that, “there’s absolutely no value proposition for accessibility.”

A solution proposed by the panel was to pressure companies and schools to make everything accessible, so that pricing for these services could come down. Another solution was to make accessibility mandated, but Peter Korn from Amazon pointed out that, “The problem with laws is that they only get us to minimums.”

The next parallel session attended by VITAC was 21st Century CVAA Scorecard, and panelists included:

  • Zainab Alkebsi, Esq., Policy Counsel, National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
  • Mark Balsano, Executive Director, Corporate Accessibility Technology Office (CATO), AT&T
  • Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind (ACB)
  • Matthew Gerst, Director, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA
  • Lise Hamlin, Director of Public Policy, Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)
  • Paul Schroeder, Vice President, Programs and Policy Group, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
  • Session chair Karen Peltz Strauss, FCC

“The question is has the CVAA been effective? The short answer is yes,” said Eric Bridges. There was discussion of the successes of the CVAA such as the captioning rules for television programming when delivered via IP.

M-Enabling_CVAA Scorecard Session_VITAC
Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind (ACB) speaking at the CVAA Scorecard session.

The day wrapped up with the FCC Chairman’s Awards for Advancements in Accessibility, presented by FCC Chariman Tom Wheeler.

These awards honor “outstanding private and public sector ventures that advance accessibility for persons with disabilities. Ventures include mainstream or assistive technologies introduced into the marketplace, development of standards, and implementation of best practices that foster accessibility.”

Tom Wheeler_FCC Chairman
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler giving short keynote before the awards for accessibility and innovation.

Winners included:

  • SOS QR – an Emergency Support App for People with Cognitive Disabilities
  • UnusTactus – App Simplifies Smartphones for People with Cognitive Disabilities
  • Wearable Sign Language Recognition System Prototype Interprets Motions and Displays Text
  • Disney’s Movies Anywhere App – Syncs Audio Description with Film Action
  • Sesame Enable – Users Can Engage Smartphone Controls with Head Gestures
  • eSight Eyewear – Headset with Videocam to Help People with Low Vision
  • Honorable Mention: Convo Announce – Allows Video and Text through PA System Announcements
  • Honorable Mention: KNFB Reader – App Reads Documents Using Smartphone Camera
  • Honorable Mention: Holy Braille Project – Researches Solutions for Low-Cost Braille Display Tablets.
FCC Chairman Award winners
FCC Chairman Award Winners Pictured with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC Karen Peltz Strauss

Tuesday’s plenary panel was Aging in Place: Innovations for Lifelong Digital Access and focused on accessibility for an aging population and new technologies and innovations to keep up.

The session chair was Andrew Johnson, Managing VP, Gartner Research.  Panelists included:

  • Nancy LeaMond, Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer, AARP
  • Amy VanDeVelde, National Connections Program Manager, The OASIS Institute
  • Marc Zablatsky, VP and General Manager, Ai Squared.
Aging In Place_M-Enabling
Aging in Place session at 2016 M-Enabling Summit

This session really drove the point that currently, there are 600 million people over 60 years old and the first sense that people begin to lose is their hearing. The aging population is only going to continue to grow. By 2043, Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials will all be collecting social security.

In the first VITAC-attended parallel session of the day, Global Status of Inclusive Technology in Higher Education, Compliance and Good Practices was chaired by Amy Goldman, Co-Director and Associate Professor, Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, and accessibility issues in universities and colleges all around the world were highlighted.

Panelists included:

  • Joy Kniskern, Strategic Initiatives, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Zerrin Ondin, Ph.D., Research Analyst, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Carolyn Phillips, Director, Tools for Life, AMAC Accessibility Solutions, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Licia Sbattella, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Accessibility/Natural Language Processing and President’s Delegate for Disability, Politecnico di Milano (G3ict Education Task Force Chair) (Italy)
M-Enabling 2016
One of the higher education sessions at M-Enabling 2016

It was in this session that it was pointed out that universities have a set of rules, guidelines, and regulations regarding accessibility to help achieve a level of standards so that all individuals are able to learn in these institutions.

Other sessions attended by VITAC included Global Opportunities for Real Time Text, Inclusive Higher Education Forum, New Tech Enablers for Accessible Learning Tools, and Roadmap towards Equal Access in Higher Education.

Heather and Brittany also had the opportunity to explore some of the exhibits, one of which was a demo of Amazon’s Alexa, a voice-operation system that makes a lot of Amazon media and tasks accessible for blind and low-vision individuals.

Amazon’s Display at M-Enabling 2016

VITAC is dedicated to staying at the forefront of accessible media solutions and technology. By attending conferences such as M-Enabling, there is an opportunity to network and collaborate with other like-minded professionals to work together to achieve accessibility for all.

By Brittany Bender

VITAC hits DC for the 2016 M-Enabling Summit

 M-Enabling Summit 2016

VITAC attends the 2016 M-Enabling Summit for Accessibility

Over the last two days, VITAC’s Heather York, VP of Marketing, and Brittany Bender, Marketing Analyst, have been in our nation’s capital to attend the conference and showcase dedicated to providing accessible technology solutions for all. They have been gaining much insight that will help VITAC remain at the forefront of accessibility.

In one of the first speeches of the conference yesterday morning, Keynote Speaker, U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts said, ” Twenty years ago the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] required physical ramps be placed on curbs for wheelchairs, and it ended up helping everybody. What’s happening now can be looked at as online ramps.” Online accessibility must be a priority; VITAC is dedicated to that initiative, and is so excited to be participating in M-Enabling.

Stay tuned for a comprehensive look into the summit coming next week! For now, check out a few pictures from their experience so far.

M-Enabling Summit 2016 Flight
A beautiful flight into the city with a greeting from the Washington Monument!
Panels for M-Enabling Summit 2016
Left: Monday’s afternoon session focusing on the CVAA (21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act).
Right: Monday’s early session concerning internet accessibility–both its challenges and its opportunities!
M-Enabling 2016
When in Rome! (or DC)
A view of the Washington Monument and a quick stop at the White House–two unmistakable landmarks– provide the perfect backdrop for the universality of the conference!


Stop by next week for more updates! While here, feel free to look out our regulations page to learn more about some of the crucial pieces of legislation that protect the rights of those who rely upon accessible technology solutions.

By: Tori Trimm

Netflix to Offer Audio Description On Popular Titles

Netflix Will Offer Audio Description on Streaming and Rental Titles, Implement Screen-Reading Software for Website and App

Netflix Audio Description

Blind and low-vision Netflix consumers will now have better access to its popular programming. In a settlement reached last month, Netflix has now agreed to produce audio description for a lot of its content.

Audio description is a feature that can be turned on or off that provides plot-pertinent spoken representation of on-screen actions and scenery. It is also commonly referred to as video description, and is professionally scripted, voiced, and seamlessly engineered and mixed into the program’s audio track.

Netflix has agreed to describe its content as part of a settlement with the American Council of the Blind, The Massachusetts Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) and a blind individual, Robert Baran. They were represented in the case by Disability Rights Advocates.

Not only will the settlement cover audio description of the video content in the streaming service, but it also applies to the DVDs and Blu-Rays in Netflix’s rental library.

The agreement also extends to Netflix’s website and mobile applications, which will soon have screen-reading software for blind and low-vision users.

VITAC applauds Netflix for this step towards accessibility for all users. We urge other online video programmers to consider audio description. For more information and an audio description sample, visit our audio description page on our website.

By Brittany Bender

Snapchat Introduces Closed Captioning Feature

Snapchat Debuts Closed Captioning Feature on ‘Discover’ Content

Snapchat Closed Captions Discover Content

A few weeks ago, we reported on Facebook’s step in the right direction with closed captioning. The social networking giant announced that video ads would now have closed captioning on video that automatically start playing when users scroll on their mobile devices. Facebook generates the captions automatically, and the advertisers have the option to edit the captions before the video is published. While we’d like to see this sort of feature for all Facebook video, another social networking app is making content more accessible as well.

Last week, Snapchat announced that its “Discover” video content now has a closed captioning feature. “Discover” content features videos from major media producers like CNN, Buzzfeed, Mashable, Cosmopolitan, Comedy Central, and MTV. Unlike Facebook, Snapchat’s captions must be uploaded manually by the content producers, and ensures greater caption accuracy.  Users are also able to turn captions on or off, regardless of whether or not they’re playing the videos with sound.

Mashable has already begun using the closed captioning feature:

Snapchat_CC Arrow   Snap_CC

While sound disruption in public is likely a main reason for the feature, they’re also bringing much-needed accessibility to the videos to 50 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans.

No plans have been announced to bring the closed captioning feature to regular users of the app, but would be a great addition.

While closed captioning is not required for the videos, we here at VITAC urge all of Snapchat’s “Discover” content producers to do so.

By Brittany Bender


Facebook Now Auto Captioning Video Ads


Facebook Video Ad  Captioning Raises Question About All Facebook Video Content

You pull up your Facebook app on your phone in public. You’re scrolling through, and a video ad automatically starts playing, and you don’t have headphones on. You’ve now just alerted and startled those around you.

Facebook announced in early February that this would no longer be an issue, as they now are generating closed captions for ads that play automatically while you’re scrolling.

Advertisers are now able to review and edit the captions that Facebook automatically generates for them, or have Facebook’s ad review process check the text.

While this is great news for the advertisers, and those who are scrolling through their newsfeed on the morning train or bus, as most consumers are annoyed when sound unexpectedly comes blaring out of their phones in a quiet setting, what about the rest of Facebook video?

While we’re not a fan of auto-generated captions, as they tend to be poor quality, this would be a great feature for all Facebook video, as the advertisers are prompted to review and edit the auto-generated captions. Regular Facebook users and content producers that upload video to the social networking site could be prompted to do the same.  Unless you have the setting disabled on your mobile device, regular Facebook videos also begin playing without sound, but there are no captions there, unless the person who uploaded the video uploaded a caption file with it.

Facebook video views doubled from 4 billion to 8 billion daily in just eight months in 2015. 50 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing, and rely on closed captions for understanding and accessibility of these videos.

For example, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” has released a video about Presidential candidate, Donald Trump. The video is wildly popular, and all over social media with over 8 million views on YouTube. However, it isn’t captioned:



It has auto captions on YouTube, but no captions at all on Facebook.

We support Facebook adding their “auto caption” feature to all video, however in the meantime, we still urge all content producers to caption their Facebook videos with quality captions so they’re accessible for all. Captioning videos on Facebook and YouTube is simple. Facebook requires an .SRT file and can be downloaded from YouTube, where caption files can be uploaded, or created from scratch.

By Brittany Bender

Single Excerpt Clips Must Have Captions


To many, January 1st means the start of a new year, and new beginnings. To us in the captioning world, it’s the beginning of the newest CVAA rule: all single excerpt clips from prerecorded programming when delivered via IP now must be captioned if they aired on television.

Previously, the rule only applied to full-length programming that was broadcast on television, and subsequently published online.

What exactly is a single excerpt clip? A single excerpt clip is any portion of a longer piece of programming from broadcast television, whether it’s from a show, sporting event, or news broadcast. These are also commonly referred to as “direct lift clips,” or “straight lift clips”.

This is just the introduction of three big changes coming to the world of clip captioning. On January 1, 2017, all montage clips from programs that aired on television will need to be captioned when published online. Montage clips are any combination of single excerpt clips from the same program, a series, or multiple programs. For example, a “best of,” or highlight reel could be considered a montage.

And beginning July 1, 2017, the rule will extend to all live and near-live programming clips. Near-live programming will have to have captions when delivered via IP within eight hours, and clips from live programming will need to have captions when published to the web within 12 hours.

The rule is already in effect, and many video programmers are choosing to caption all video on their websites to stay ahead of the game, and to make everything accessible. VITAC is ready with a solution to ensure your single excerpt clips online are CVAA compliant. Contact us today.

By Brittany Bender