MIT launches website to help with captioning media content

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Earlier this year, Provost Martin Schmidt announced the settlement of a lawsuit against MIT brought by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) over the accessibility of MIT online audio and video content to persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. A working group made up of staff from across MIT has now officially launched a new captioning and accessibility website, which includes tools and guidance for the community about how to make existing and future media posted on MIT public web pages and third-party sites compliant with the settlement, which went into effect on July 21.

“The team did an amazing job of developing content and assembling tools that will help to make Institute content more accessible to our community and the world,” says David Randall, senior associate dean for student support and well-being in the Division of Student Life. “While this is an important step toward fulfilling the settlement’s commitments, we must now turn to the work of identifying and captioning media that is covered by the settlement, and we need the community’s help to make that happen.”

According to the settlement terms, starting on Sept. 19, new audio and video content posted to MIT public web pages and third-party platforms (such as YouTube and Vimeo) must be captioned when it goes live. Existing content posted from Jan. 1, 2019, through Sept. 19, 2020, must be captioned or removed from public view no later than July 21, 2021. MIT is also developing a portal that members of the public can use to request captioning of existing content, which will be launched in mid-October. After the portal is live, any requests submitted by the public to caption media posted from Jan. 1, 2019, to Sept. 19, 2020, must be fulfilled within seven business days, or the content must be removed from public view. Likewise, content posted prior to Jan. 1, 2019, must be captioned or removed from public view within seven business days of a request.

The new website includes guidelines and tools for captioning media, as well as training and other resources for staff and MIT affiliates who post or have posted media that needs captioning (certificates required). The public request portal will be added to this site in October. Additionally, a link to the new website will be added to MIT public web pages now and in the future.

“MIT has worked tirelessly to make Institute content accessible to individuals with and without disabilities,” says Kathleen Monagle, associate dean of Disability and Access Services (DAS). “Even before the lawsuit was announced in 2015, a team from DAS and elsewhere at MIT has been working to provide greater access to MIT’s digital content. Through this critical captioning work, we will make significant strides in how MIT advances accessibility to the Institute’s public, online information.”

While not all MIT websites are considered public or subject to the settlement’s terms, MIT’s goal is to achieve greater accessibility in its digital spaces. In his February email, Provost Schmidt stated, “[I]n keeping with our goal of greater accessibility, I encourage all community members — including all students, faculty, and staff — to caption all new content at the time you post it to any webpage or public platform, and to use only third-party platforms that support accessibility, even if not mandated by resolution of this lawsuit.” In addition, Provost Schmidt charged a working group to recommend ways of increasing the accessibility of MIT’s technology for individuals with disabilities.

Additionally, a network of DLC liaisons and communications staff are taking the lead on captioning media posted now and in the future. “Though today’s website launch culminates the work of many dedicated staff, we are fortunate to have a broader team of colleagues who will actually make sure we accomplish our goals,” Randall adds. “We’re grateful to everyone who is playing a role in this monumental but vital effort.”

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