Saturday, March 11, 2017

ADA requirements could compromise "free content" libraries (even on YouTube) and open access


FEE, Foundation for Economic Education, a libertarian site, has another cautionary tale about UC Berkeley.  No, it’s not just about Milo Yiannopoulos, although he has indeed found a real iceberg. The piece, by Brittany Hunter, titles itself “When equal access means zero access for all”.

The university has a digital library of lectures and videos, over 20000 items, that it was trying to offer for free.  (Yup, it’s the “It’s free” thing in Reid Ewing’s short film – we really need this film back in circulation.)  It seems that associates at Gallaudet University in Washington DC, a school for the deaf, filed suit under the ADA complaining that the materials were not readily accessible for the deaf (the videos that is, without close captioning.)

The facts seem confusing.  Many of the videos at issue were on a YouTube channel, and some had manually generated, and others had automatically generated (by YouTube) close captioning.
Apparently the complaint is about a small number of YouTube videos with no captioning. In any case, UC wound up removing the entire library from free access thru YouTube or similar platforms. I suppose the same could have happened with Vimeo.  (What about movie companies that provide private review screeners through Vimeo?)

I could ramble here.  I could say that’s like complaining about a foreign language movie without English subtitles.  In fact, I’ve managed a couple times with French or German subtitles for rare Asian movies (“Mermaid in a Manhole”).  But that’s off the subject.

More seriously, I could wonder if any amateur provider on YouTube could be approached or served with the same complaint.  Even me.

I wondered about related questions when self-publishing my books.  I don’t have the scale for audiobooks, or large print, or other accommodations.  POD can confound this question.  I may well take this question up later on my Book review blog, and come back to this question soon on a Wordpress blog that looks at these things as  bigger pictures.  But this problem would also relate quickly to open access.

Wikipedia documentary on first picture: By brainchildvn on Flickr - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link

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