In the Age of the Internet, one group is being left out of the conversation—the hearing impaired.

By Steve Friess
This is a common problem for people with hearing loss in the digital age, and the next day I found myself equally aggravated to see that just one major news website—CNN—provided live subtitles for Hillary Clinton’s email press conference. MSNBC, CBS, Fox, ABC, Bloomberg, and CSPAN all lacked live captioning on their streams, especially baffling since they all included them in the live TV presentations of the same event.
Such is, but should not be, life in the Digital Age as one of the 36 million Americans who have hearing loss or are deaf. Those of us who rely on captions—I have worn bilateral hearing aids since I was in the second grade—are being left behind, stuck reading recaps, tweets, and live-blogs instead of experiencing key cultural and news events firsthand like everyone else.
The irony of the problem is that Deaf advocates had enjoyed a near-complete triumph in getting the FCC and Congress to force broadcast and cable TV outlets to provide live captioning in the late 1990s. Then, the party moved online and those gains became increasingly worthless in the Internet age.
As streaming video improved—and became more critical to basic cultural literacy—access has gotten worse. In 2012, the FCC finally set up some rules that are only now kicking in for broadcasters regarding what they post online, but they’re very weak. By next month, programs shown on TV and posted in full must have closed-captioning within 45 days of airing. By April 2016, that window drops to 15 days. But video “clips” are exempt, as is live programming and, of course, all made-for-Web content.
There are legal challenges in the works regarding some situations, such as the federal lawsuit filed against Harvard and MIT last month to force them to caption online lectures and other educational materials. It boggles the mind that nobody at either of those liberal bastions—located in the same region that boasts WGBH, the Boston PBS station that essentially invented closed captioning—said, “Oh. Right. Duh. There. Fixed.” But neither the law, the courts, nor anyone’s conscience has yet to touch news or entertainment content providers in any important way.
Read it all here: