Captions and transcripts, the budget says no

Last year, year two of the pandemic again consisted of emailing and asking online conferences I was interested in attending if they provide captions. Most don’t because “we don’t have money for it”.

In my talk ‘Unmeasurable Accessibility: The Case for Inclusive Design’ inclusive design is important and how to go about getting it done.

Make it part of the budget requisites from the beginning, make it part of the ticket price, look for sponsors specifically for captions/transcripts.

Yet, it still seems impossible for some organisations to provide captions and transcripts for live events, online events, videos, podcasts and such. The reason is always, it costs too much, we don’t have the budget for it. It’s especially painful when it’s a conference about accessibility and yet they are not accessible.

If money keeps being the reason then I can only assume we will never have accessible conferences for deaf and hard of hearing people. Not to mention others that also profit from captions for different reasons. Many podcasts will never have transcripts. Because it’s not going to become free or cheaper. Auto caption is still ways from being good enough and good captions and transcripts still depend on human work.

I would like to see people taking this as serious as when they brainstorm and plan to organise their event. To put the same energy in being accessible as they put in getting top speakers, top venue, a website for their event and all that goes with setting up a good thing.

What solutions are there so they can have the budget for it? I find it hard to swallow that the money problem cannot be overcome.

Especially with podcasts becoming very popular and even replacing long reads in online newspapers and magazines. More content becomes inaccessible. I will often come across podcasts that consist of a large production team but will lack transcripts. They had a large budget to go a long way, but the bucket stopped at transcripts.

It can feel very demoralising and I keep brainstorming, thinking, how can I get people to be more conscious about the importance of captions and transcripts? What solutions are there so they can have the budget for it? I find it hard to swallow that the money problem cannot be overcome. Can it be overcome or do I have too high expectations and should I just accept that a lot of things will never be accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people?

Joe Dolson sums it up perfectly:

Quality comes at a price.

But expressing this as “accessibility is expensive” is also not entirely accurate. Accessibility is not expensive; inaccessibility is cheap.

Just like before March 2020 companies insisted it was impossible for disabled people to work from home. Then in record time, it was possible for everyone to work from home. It’s a matter of willingness.