What happened: YouTube will discontinue the community caption feature on September 28, 2020, according to a YouTube Help article. The community captions feature permits people to submit transcriptions or translations of videos for YouTube creators to use on their videos. YouTube creators can still publish their own captions, use automatic captions or use third-party tools and services. Deaf and hard of hearing creators like Rikki Poynter and users have criticized the platform’s decision to shut down a major accessibility feature.
I told [Youtube] for an hour why we need community contribution. Not just for deaf people so more channels will have captions, but for disabled creators who can’t manually do them or have the income to pay for them: which is most of us. They do not care about us. — Rikki Poynter, Twitter
Unfortunately, if they didn’t listen to me when we had our meeting, and didn’t listen to everyone telling them off in the comments months ago, I don’t think they’ll listen now. https://t.co/sn6DzeXn0V
— Rikki Poynter ????????♀️???? (@rikkipoynter) July 30, 2020
The Frontlines: In a YouTube video from April, YouTube Product Manager James Dillard said the platform was considering discontinuing community captions feature because “not that many creators are ultimately using it.”
Captions make television, movies and other videos accessible to the Deaf and hard of hearing community.
YouTube wrote that the platform was ceasing this feature because it led to abuse and spam as well.
YouTube told The Verge that it would provide creators “who have used the community contribution feature on at least three videos in the past 60 days” with a six-month subscription transcription service.
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A Mighty Voice: Sophia Digirolamo, who has autism, wrote about the positive role that YouTube has on her life as someone with a disability. “I used to be very shy, but now I can’t go a day without talking to more then one friend, whether on Skype or in real life.” You can submit your first person story, too.
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Other things to know: Deaf and hard of hearing people regularly face barriers due to a lack of accessibility. During COVID-19, Deaf and hard of hearing people face new challenges because masks make it difficult to read lips.
How to take action: You can sign a Change.org petition to ask YouTube to not remove the community captions feature. If you want to learn how to make captions to make videos on and off of Youtube more accessible, there are instructions here.