I don’t watch a whole lot of shows or movies. But I do enjoy watching Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, and others over at ESPN’s First Take hilariously debate over sports topics ranging from how much blame LeBron James deserves after getting a triple double in a 2011 finals loss to whether it was appropriate or not for Tim Tebow to run topless (yes, they debated about that!). The episodes are each two hours long, so it’s rare that I can watch them entirely. So I turn to the highlight videos uploaded on ESPN.com.
And as you can see, they have closed captioning! There’s a little toggle to the bottom right of the video screen. I’ve found the captions to be reliable. They’re not perfect, but they’re significantly more accurate than computer-generated captioning.
Unfortunately, not all of these highlights offer me that option. (The full, 2-hour long episodes aired on ESPN are completely captioned.) When I filtered the 159 most recent videos on ESPN.com (it seems like they archive old videos somewhere) to see only those that offered closed captioning, that narrowed the options down to 64. But a closer look indicated that the oldest video listed as having captions was uploaded in January 2012, and the oldest video overall on ESPN First Take’s current archives are dated as 2010. I noticed, upon inspection, that the most recent videos were captioned at a higher percentage than the older videos.
That’s optimistic news, but I wanted to know more. One gripe I have is that it’s sometimes difficult to understand seemingly arbitrary captioning policies. Does ESPN have a specific criteria for what online video highlights have captions? I emailed ESPN about my concerns and actually got a response, which was surprising considering the volume of messages they receive. The response, unfortunately, missed my main point, but did indicate that ESPN has room to improve with regards to accessibility:
Thank you for contacting us.
ESPN, Inc. does not release or sell copies of its programming or promos.
I assume it’s impossible to get transcripts from ESPN, although their may be third party releases out on the web. This isn’t optimal, but ESPN at least took a step to increase accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing by having some captions for online video highlights. I commend them for doing so even though the short length of these clips may deter captioning. Virtually every other sports highlight reel I’ve seen online has been bereft of captions.
I will continue to discuss accessibility issues on this blog. Some entries related to accessibility will focus on minor issues, such as this one. But others will be more extensive and possibly include mailed letters. Obviously, these topics will be a little more serious than the one discussed today, and I have an entry prepared for that tomorrow. Stay tuned.