Jason Scott runs a Weblog called ASCII at Its high-contrast white-on-black appearance makes the page a travail to read for reasons that are commonly discussed but ill-understood. (The page can be made more legible by reading in no-styles mode, or in Opera accessibility mode. These are extreme lengths just to read a personal blog.)

Scott is finishing a documentary about bulletin-board systems and has taken an interest in accessibility. He hasn’t taken much of an interest in allowing me to actually comment on his site, so let me correct a few of his errors here.

  • One does not “subtitle” one’s “fucking movie”; one captions it. (You aren’t translating your movie. Subtitles are translations.)

    Captioning is not “easy,” and it takes an experienced captioner using high-end equipment four work days to caption a movie with a 96-minute runtime. (They can caption at most 22 minutes a day, and your two-hour movie is probably made of two 48-minute segments.) You are not an experienced captioner; it will take you longer and your captioning sucks. Send captioning out-of-house; enthusiasm is no substitute for skill.

  • Scott’s entire post on audio description meant well but never could get the terminology right. Nor did he actually name the disc with accessible menus, which surely is Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (which I have).

    Scott is foolishly trying to audio-describe his movie by himself. While I am in favour of homebrew captioning under certain circumstances, I don’t see any point in doing audio description yourself. You suck as a writer of description, you don’t have a proper recording studio, you don’t have a plausible narrator, and, at root, you don’t know what you’re doing. Enthusiasm is not only no substitute for skill, it gets in the way with description, where less is certainly more.

  • Blind people do not typically have to “rip the DVDs and extract the various titles/parts out of the DVD so they can play stuff without being hung up on menus and special features and Easter eggs and the rest.” Except for unusual cases where a misguided DVD author has disabled the relevant user operation, you can usually just keep hitting Play on your remote and the damned movie will play. You then keep hitting Audio until you hear the description track. While this isn’t true accessibility, it is pragmatic accessibility: You manage to watch the movie.

    Visual menu systems on DVDs, as everywhere, remain inaccessible to a blind person. Your homemade solution will probably not work; it’s tricky bordering on impossible to make self-voicing menus on DVDs. (That’s why there are so few such discs. It isn’t just an unwillingness or an unawareness; it’s fiendishly difficult.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.04.27 15:59. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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