Caption Fails Fail Everyone: A Personal Quest to Bridge the YouTube Divide by Sara of Subtitle YouTube.

Despite the well-meaning intentions of those who created the software, automated captions on YouTube have fallen tremendously short and have become the butt of an ongoing, relentless joke. Doubt me? Search Twitter. Here are excerpts of what I’ve found, verbatim:

Case A: If you want to increase your enjoyment of watching favourite YouTube commentators, try watching their videos with captions turned on. #Epic

Case B: Put the captions on @ZozeeBo‘s video just out of curiosity and this happened… I don’t think she said that YouTube. (The captions said: And we all have a wonderful wife gangbang just isn’t mine I’m not saying)

Finally, Case C: Watching YouTube videos with the closed captions on, is one of the top 5 funniest things to do when bored.

Here is an example from one of John Green’s videos, he is the host of a show called Mental Floss and the Vlog Brothers. He also wrote a really famous book that became a movie “The Fault in Our Stars” He always talks about serious subjects so captions looks really silly by comparison.

John Green

John Green

He actually said “All of this was made worse by the fact that I have these birthmarks.”

The internet is having a field day with YouTube’s automated caption system. But while everyone is laughing, no one is taking into consideration the people who are truly impacted by this big, ugly mess: those who can’t hear. Many in the deaf and hard of hearing community do NOT find YouTube’s captions funny. They are frustrated, and for good reason. YouTube captions often produce gibberish. For a firm example, refer to Case B. Random strings of numbers and curse words have been known to appear…on cartoons and children’s videos of all places. Automated captions often contradict what actors are saying on screen. To be blunt, automated captions have rendered most of YouTube unwatchable.

As an avid YouTube junkie, this disappoints me. As a CODA and wife to a loving deaf husband, the lack of accessibility disgusts me. There are so many excellent channels on YouTube. Tutorials. Vlogs. Sketch comedies. Game commentary. Cooking shows. Science shows. Videos with millions of views each. Just one click and I’m enjoying the video of my choice. The deaf and hard of hearing community do not have this luxury. They are shut out because 99% of the aforementioned videos are uncaptioned.

I began to ask channels if they would consider captioning their work. I was firmly ignored. Since my requests proved fruitless, I started searching for other options. A Facebook friend introduced me to Amara, a community of transcribers and translators that volunteer their time to make YouTube videos accessible to others. I joined immediately, making it my goal to caption several popular videos every day.

About a month or two later, a Turkish translator reached out to me and said he appreciated my work. He was hard of hearing, but my transcripts were making it possible for him to translate videos at a much quicker pace. We started teaming up and doing more work together. Then he suggested I open a Facebook page, to create a platform where I could share the captions I had been making. So we created “Subtitle YouTube” and by networking with other deaf interest groups on Facebook, started gaining an audience.

While we caption popular channels and viral videos, we care very much about the deaf and hard of hearing community and want to caption videos they personally want to watch. This page is THEIRS and through it we hope to provide a medium in which they can make captioning requests. If there is ever a video you wish to see subtitled, please don’t hesitate in coming to us to make your request known. We will do our very best to bring you the highest quality captions you so deserve. It’s your turn to enjoy what the internet has to offer. Let’s work together to make more videos accessible—videos everyone can enjoy.

By Sara (aka “Comrade Kate”) of Subtitle Youtube.

You can find Subtitle Youtube on Twitter by clicking on the link *here and their Facebook page by clicking on the link *here.

Note from The Tree House to Sara – Many thanks for being you and for bringing smiles to our days by sharing captioned videos. For also captioning one of Sara Jae’s favourite comedy sketches which she is still extremely grateful for as she has for many years wanted to be able to watch it again but could not due to no captions.  Now, she and everyone else can enjoy it to the max – as equals.


3 thoughts on “Caption Fails Fail Everyone: A Personal Quest to Bridge the YouTube Divide by Sara of Subtitle YouTube.

  1. I don’t take issue with You Tube using speech recognition software to produce these auto-captions but I do take issue with the fact that they don’t encourage users to make corrections themselves to the auto-captions. It’s actually not that difficult to do. You Tube (Google) could do a much better job educating its users who upload content to take the time to view the auto-captions and correct the errors. Doing so not only improve access, it improves video SEO so people can find their content more easily when carrying out a search. Surely that’s what most users want?!

  2. Pingback: Full story on #STOPfakeinterpreter courtesy of Views from the Treehouse: To laugh or not to laugh? | Deaf Canada | Deaf Canada focuses on bridging and strengthening ties between Deaf communities across Canada by hosting as a portal to media such as news a

  3. Great article. People really should take notice about the importance of accurate captions. If you don’t have time to caption videos yourself, you can always outsource the task to a captioning service, which is actually very affordable nowadays. There’s a service called where all you need to do is copy and paste the link to your YouTube video and it will be captioned for you, and it only costs $1 per minute.

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