Hear me read the post below:
In New Orleans, my sister-in-law received a stuffed owl from her parents for Christmas. It was from a family of stuffed animals filled with dried lavender; these animals are microwavable, and give off a calming fragrance when warmed. She’d used her lavender-filled lamb throughout finals. For Christmas, she’d received a new lamb, as well as an owl.
I was dealing with a flare-up of multiple symptoms and medical problems while in New Orleans, so she passed her owl to me one night for comfort. I began carrying it around the house — microwaving it regularly, holding it to my chest while working.
She told me that she’d like for me to keep the owl, because I seemed to be deriving so much from it.
Oh, no, I said. I couldn’t possibly. It’s your Christmas present.
My mother-in-law said, If she’d like for you to have it, I think you should have it. She wants you to have it.
The traditional response, at least in Chinese culture, is to protest until the giver protests more and more loudly, until someone’s protestations overwhelm the other’s. I’ve witnessed epic battles over who will pay the check at dinner, including tactics of pretending to use the restroom, and instead using that time to hand some cash or a credit card to the waitstaff or the manager.
In this case, I took the owl, whom I named Sarah Owl, and who is in the microwave as I type this. I tell this seemingly pointless anecdote because it’s about offering things that people need. It is also about accepting things that people offer.
I used to think that it was wrong to accept things, that it was wrong to express my desires, and, perhaps most importantly, that it was wrong to possibly piss people off, which is why I dithered so much about writing about accessibility.
I received a very polite email from a registrant for Rawness of Remembering. The registrant commented that my program would include videos. Being Deaf, she had difficulty with videos. Would there, she asked, be a lot of them? Note that she didn’t ask if I’d be including transcripts. She wasn’t insisting that I make my class accessible for her. She seemed to be willing to accept that there would be course material that she couldn’t access.
On my end, I’d already planned on including transcripts with all of the videos and audio. But the fact that she wrote me that email made me hyper-aware of every site I looked at thereafter.
Online entrepreneurs and bloggers are putting up more audio and videos than ever before. I’ve seen the practice espoused many times, with the idea being that putting up a video or recording a quick podcast is easier than typing out a piece or post. Interviews are frequently video- or audio-only. Online courses — every single one I’ve taken, in fact — include audio, video, or both.
With the proliferation of video and audio, I’m not seeing an equal proliferation of captions or transcripts.
(One example of a website that does do this is Good Life Project, which features inspirational videos with transcripts. I wrote to Jonathan Fields, thanking him for doing this.)
I know that making transcripts is a pain. I use Scribie when I don’t have the time to transcribe something myself, and the costs add up.
But if you’re a content creator, and 8.6% of the population lives with hearing loss or hearing impairment, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you’re potentially excluding approximately 1 in 9 folks who are visiting your site. Those living with visual impairment can have access to technology that will allow them to “read” websites aloud. As a maker, you’re the one with the power to either make your content accessible or inaccessible.
As a content creator, you probably want to be helpful.
You want to say things that matter, and to do it with compassion.
I ask you to say those things in a way that considers the human scope.