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    YouTube’s Automatic Captions Prove Insufficient for ADA Compliance

    By: Aylin Dunham
    youtube's automatic captions

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    You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about YouTube’s automatic captions lately, whether it be from viewers making fun of them, content creators complaining about them, or the deaf and hard of hearing calling out their poor quality. Whatever is being said, most of the time it is not positive. That’s because YouTube’s automatic captions are a complete failure (unless you are aiming for comedy). They’re frustrating to those who rely on closed captioning and they’re embarrassing for respected content creators that are unaware they are providing insufficient accommodation to their deaf and hard of hearing audience. In this Whiteboard Wednesday see examples of how difficult it is to understand YouTube automatic captions, and learn how to remove them in order to replace them with your own quality captions.

    Video Transcript:

    Hi, this is Courtney with Automatic Sync and in this Whiteboard Wednesday we will discuss YouTube’s automatic captioning feature, and how to disable it to avoid embarrassing captioning quality problems.

    YouTube introduced their “auto-caps” in 2009 in an effort to to make more of their content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing.  Even if you haven’t noticed the automatic captions before, chances are a lot of videos you’ve watched have them. With any new content that is uploaded to YouTube captions are automatically generated and will be visible unless the content creator turns them off or replaces them with their own caption file.

    To view them, just click on the CC button here.

    When it comes to YouTube’s automatic captions, the main concern is quality. Although speech recognition as we know it has been around since the 1990s, the technology has not yet reached anything near 100% accuracy.

    Since the intelligibility of captioning drops dramatically at even a 2% error rate, most of the time YouTube’s computer generated captions are incomprehensible.  In fact, the automatic captions are sometimes so wrong that they have become a comedic internet sensation, leading to the creation of the hashtag #captionfail.

    For the hearing the captions can be entertaining, but for the deaf they are often frustrating. Imagine really trying to learn something from an educational video, but it looks like this.

    “social media and serotonin in the brain and allows us to go ashore fixations and”

    “tour guide sleeping draw the Sharks in”

    “mile relies on his data but he’s convinced the waffles are caused by the”

    It’s likely that you were unable to guess what is really being said. Here they are again with accurate captions.

    “Social validation increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain and allows us to let go of emotional fixations.”

    “The tour guides lay bait to draw the sharks in.”

    “Mayor relies on his data and is convinced the wobbles are caused by…”

    To prevent these sometimes embarrassing automatic captions from being displayed on your videos, go into your YouTube channel’s video manager, click on the video you want to remove them from, and click subtitles and CC. Select the auto-caps and click “actions”… “delete”

    Adding your own caption file is easy in the video manager. Click Add new subtitles or CC and choose a language. If you have a .srt or .sbv caption file, you can choose “Upload a File”, find the file then click “Upload.”

    Through Automatic Sync there is also the ability to have your caption file automatically pushed to YouTube once the file is created in AST.

    Unfortunately many of YouTube’s video creators are unaware of how the automatic captions affect those who rely on them. It’s easy to think that providing your own accurate captions, which take time and money, is unnecessary because the ones provided by YouTube are good enough. However, recently word has been spreading through young YouTube activists that captioning your own videos is the right thing to do.

    We encourage all our customers to provide their own captions on YouTube, allowing the deaf and hard of hearing to have equal access to all videos.

    How to delete YouTube’s Automatic Captions

    1. Login to your YouTube account and go to your Video Manager
    2. Find the video you would like to remove the captions from and click “edit”
    3. Click on “Subtitles and CC” on the top right side of the page
    4. Select the automatic captions. It should say “English (Automatic)”
    5. Click on the “Actions” dropdown, then “unpublish” or “delete”

    How to add your own caption file to YouTube

    1. Login to your YouTube account and go to your Video Manager
    2. Find the video you would like to add captions to and click “edit”
    3. Click on “Subtitles and CC” towards the top right side of the page
    4. Click on “Add new subtitles or CC”
    5. Choose a language
    6. Click “Upload a file” then “Choose file” and find your .srt, .sbv or other accepted format of caption file you want to add.
    7. Finally, choose “Upload” and “Publish” your new captions

    Helpful Links: