Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Civil rights advocates challenge New York City’s failure to make its sidewalks safe for wheelchair users, blind people

Press release from DRA: (The image is from Streets Blog NYC here.)

New York City, NY – July 30, 2014 – Today, Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”) and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, on behalf of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (“CIDNY”), filed a landmark civil rights lawsuit in federal court alleging that New York City violates Federal disability civil rights laws by failing to make its sidewalks and pedestrian routes accessible to people who use wheelchairs or are blind. 

As we enter the 25th year of the Americans with Disabilities Act this week, more than 400,000 New Yorkers with ambulatory disabilities and more than 200,000 people with vision disabilities continue to be excluded from the pedestrian culture that is so critical to community life in New York City, because nearly all of the City’s sidewalks and pedestrian routes are dangerous and difficult for persons with disabilities. 

Dangers include corners at pedestrian crossings without curb ramps for wheelchair users or corners with hazardous curb ramps that are too steep or broken, which often end up forcing persons using wheelchairs to modify travel plans, avoid whole areas with inaccessible streetscapes, or roll over curb ramps with barriers that threaten to topple a wheelchair. The majority of curb ramps in the City also have no required detectable warnings or contrasting features that signal to blind and low-vision pedestrians that they are about to leave the sidewalk and enter the path of vehicle traffic. Read the complaint at 

For nearly three decades, the City has ignored its obligations to provide curb ramps and accessible pedestrian routes whenever it resurfaces City streets or alters its street and sidewalks. The City has also failed to make timely improvements to its existing sidewalks so that wheelchair users and the blind can safely travel to critical areas, such as those involving city and government services, community events and commerce, among others. 

The lawsuit focuses on fixing the sidewalks and pedestrian routes below 14th street in Manhattan, an area used by hundreds of thousands of pedestrians every day. As Julia Pinover of DRA’s New York office described, “The area below 14th street is home to centers for civic participation like City Hall and the Courts. It is the home of Wall Street, the 9/11 memorial, and the departure point for visiting the Statute of Liberty. It is a national hub of business and commerce. Without access to the streetscape here, persons with disabilities are excluded from critical governmental services and a multitude of basic New York City experiences.” 

Indeed, for wheelchair users like Dustin Jones, each of the 4-5 trips he takes to lower Manhattan every week are rife with danger. Mr. Jones commented, “Barriers at curb ramps have left me stuck in the street where I have had to rely on the kindness of strangers to help me up on the sidewalk. Poorly placed curb ramps have forced me right into the path of vehicle traffic where I fear for my safety. I should not have to fear for my life every time I attempt to go downtown.” Myrna Driffin, a Chelsea resident and grandmother of 15 who is totally blind said “I don’t feel safe walking around downtown. Just last week I ended up in the middle of the street before I knew I was off the curb. Cars were honking at me. It was really scary. I am a smart lady and I have been blind almost my whole adult life, but New York City streets are so poorly marked that this happens regularly.” 

 “The safety issue is front and center in my mind. If we are to reach the Mayor’s Vision Zero, we have to make it possible for people with disabilities to cross the street safely, to go to work, home, and out for the evening with friends using the sidewalk like non-disabled New Yorkers. Walkable and roll-able communities are also important for health and wellness for people with disabilities” said Susan Dooha who is the executive director of organizational plaintiff CIDNY. CIDNY has offices below 14th street and a mission of serving persons with disabilities. She added “We are concerned because many of our employees and volunteers have physical or sensory disabilities and all of the persons we serve have disabilities. All should be able to come to CIDNY, and travel around lower Manhattan, without worrying about whether the City has basic access features on its sidewalks.” 

Daniel Brown, a Partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton said “This litigation seeks to require the City to make changes to its sidewalks that it should have made decades ago. It’s a shame that it’s going to take litigation to ensure that everyone has access to the fundamental civic right to travel freely and safely, but we’re confident that this case will bring about justice for the New Yorkers with mobility impairments and who are blind.”

 About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA): Disability Rights Advocates is one of the leading nonprofit disability rights legal centers in the nation. With offices in Berkeley, California and New York City, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA’s recent work in New York City has resulted in a landmark settlement to make half of the City’s taxi fleet accessible to wheelchair users, a federal court order requiring the City to make its polling sites accessible to voters with disabilities on Election Day, and a victory at trial in in the class-action lawsuit challenging New York City’s failure to plan for the needs of persons with disabilities in large scale disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. More information can be found at

About the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY): The Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York is a leading advocate for people with disabilities in New York City. It was founded in 1978 to ensure full integration, independence and equal opportunity for all people with disabilities by removing barriers to the social, economic, cultural and civic life of the community. In 2013, CIDNY served nearly 18,000 New Yorkers. For more information, please see

About Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton LLP: Sheppard Mullin is a full service Global 100 firm with 670 attorneys in 15 offices located in the United States, Europe and Asia. Since 1927, companies have turned to Sheppard Mullin to handle corporate and technology matters, high stakes litigation and complex financial transactions. In the U.S., the firm's clients include more than half of the Fortune 100. Sheppard Mullin also has a long tradition of providing legal services to people and community organizations who could otherwise not afford access to critical legal representation. For more information, please visit

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Albuquerque restaurant owner with Down syndrome to get his own reality show

from KOAT-TV:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Tim Harris, the owner of Tim's Place restaurant, will be getting his own reality show, and the show is casting.

Harris, who was born with Down Syndrome, has made several TV appearances, including a recent trip to "The View." Harris lives by this famous Walt Disney quote: "If you can dream it, you can do it."

The show, "Everybody Loves Tim," will explore the life of Harris who achieved his dream of opening a restaurant in the Duke City.

Tim's Place is known for its signature friendly service, which often includes free hugs from the owner himself.
The show is looking for people seeking to live a more confident and inspired life, who are willing to work alongside Tim.

Those interested in appearing on the show are asked to email casting director Faith Hibbs-Clark at Include a recent picture, contact information and a brief statement about what struggles you're looking to overcome.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Disability Visibility Project to record stories for 25th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

From the Disability Visability Project:

SAN FRANCISCO – The Disability Visibility Project is a yearlong grassroots campaign to document the stories of people with disabilities in celebration of the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2015.

In partnership with StoryCorps, the national oral history organization, Disability Visibility Project encourages people to record and archive their unique and powerful stories at StoryCorps’ recording studios in AtlantaChicagoSan Francisco and in StoryCorps’ mobile recording booth that travels from city to city throughout the United States.

StoryCorps interviews are conducted between two people who know and care about each other. A trained facilitator guides the participants through the interview process. At the end of each 40-minute recording session, participants receive a copy of their interview. With their permission, a second copy is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Participants can to make reservations online with StoryCorps and mention the Disability Visibility Project in the “NOTES” section of the online form so their story will be tagged for this project. Check StoryCorps’ website for more information on how to participate:

“The Americans with Disabilities Act was a landmark civil rights law that prohibited discrimination based on disability and provided equal opportunity for millions to participate in society. As we celebrate the 24th anniversary of the ADA tomorrow, we are taking this opportunity to remember and reflect as a community on the tremendous changes we’ve experienced so far,” says Alice Wong, Project Coordinator. “The struggle for disability and human rights continues and it is important for future generations to have this history to guide them.”

About Disability Visibility Project

The project partners with individuals and organizations to reach diverse groups within the disability community. “We believe all people are historic figures with stories that are worth sharing and preserving,” says Wong.

For more information:


Twitter: @DisVisibility

About StoryCorps

StoryCorps’ mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, preserve, and share their stories. Each week, millions listen to StoryCorps’ award winning broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition.

For more information:


Twitter: @storycorps

Photo -

Media Contact:
Alice Wong, Project Coordinator
Disability Visibility Project

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New memorial honoring disabled veterans takes shape near U.S. Capitol after 16 years of planning

From The AP:

WASHINGTON — Army Lt. Dawn Halfaker was on patrol 10 years ago in Baqubah, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade tore through her military vehicle and exploded inside.
When she woke up from a coma, the West Point graduate found out her right arm was gone and her career as a military officer was over at age 24. It's the kind of sacrifice millions of U.S. soldiers have made dating back to the American Revolution. Veterans groups say there as many as 4 million living today with the scars of war.

Now Halfaker will be among those pictured in a new memorial rising near the National Mall within view of the U.S. Capitol. The American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial will be the first memorial in Washington dedicated to veterans who come home with life-changing injuries.

It's a project 16 years in the making and is set to be dedicated Oct. 5. Glass walls will carry inscriptions and photographs telling veterans' stories from different eras. Bronze silhouette sculptures will represent their service.

A ceremonial flame will burn on the water's surface in a star-shaped fountain representing the five branches of military service, surrounded by a grove of trees.

The idea was inspired by the camaraderie of soldiers' campfires and the flame as a symbol of renewal, designer Michael Vergason said. "I think it will bring it home for visitors. I think it will give people a better understanding of how somebody's life is forever changed and really help them understand the sacrifice a little bit more," Halfaker said. "It's hard to explain to somebody what being in combat is like."

Halfaker created a consulting business after leaving the military and serves as chairwoman of the Wounded Warrior Project. The only thing she doesn't like about the memorial, she said, is the term disabled. She doesn't think of herself that way.

Construction has been underway for nearly a year, and the memorial plaza was taking shape as The Associated Press had a look at its progress. Workers have been installing black stone elements for a fountain and reflecting pool. A Rhode Island stone carver is working to hand-carve inscriptions from George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, in the site's marble Wall of Gratitude.

Those who planned the memorial near the Capitol wanted to ensure lawmakers and their staffs see the memorial each day "and realize there's a human cost when you send our troops into harm's way," said project executive W. Barry Owenby, who is also a veteran.

While controversies have arisen over other memorials honoring Eisenhower, Martin Luther King Jr. and World War II veterans, this project has not drawn the same scrutiny or criticism. But it has gone through the same oversight reviews as any other memorial project.

"Who could take issue with honoring those who have given a life sacrifice?" said Arthur Wilson, a disabled Vietnam veteran and co-founder of the Disabled Veterans' Life Memorial Foundation that is building the memorial. "It's a reminder that needs to be there every day."

The project is even more timely now, he said, considering the revelations of health care problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The idea began in 1998 with Florida philanthropist Lois Pope, former Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown and Wilson, and it quickly drew support in Congress. By 2000, the authorizing legislation was signed by President Bill Clinton.

While some memorial projects rely on federal dollars, this memorial has been funded almost entirely with privately raised funds. Organizers raised about $80 million from more than a million donors. The Disabled American Veterans organization contributed about $10 million. Pope and her foundation also contributed about $10 million. A federal grant of about $6 million was secured to remove a road that crossed the site. The memorial will eventually be operated by the National Park Service.

Once it's finished, Vergason, the site's designer, said the fall will be a perfect time to visit. The memorial includes a grove of ginkgo trees that turn yellow in early November, just in time for Veterans Day.

American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial:

One of Marvel’s Avengers turns to sign language

From The NY Times:

The fight for justice can wear on the body. That is something that Clint Barton, the member of Marvel’s Avengers known as the archer Hawkeye, is going to have to learn to cope with. In issue No. 19 of “Hawkeye,” which arrives in stores on July 30, the writer Matt Fraction and the artist David Aja show the aftereffects of a battle that has left their hero with profound ear damage. 

The story strives to connect readers with what he is experiencing: when he can’t hear, the word balloons on the page are blank. The comic also makes extensive use of sign language, but provides no key to interpreting them. “If nothing else, it’s an opportunity for hearing people to get a taste of what it might be like to be deaf,” Mr. Fraction said. 

Drawing the issue was “very difficult,” Mr. Aja said. Without the traditional dialogue, his ability to convey gestures was even more critical. Mr. Aja also had to devise ways to depict certain signs that required multiple movements in a clear way. “There’s so much subtlety and expression on the page,” said Sana Amanat, the book’s editor. “You can understand what’s going on even without the balloons.”

The story builds on past adventures, including one where Hawkeye inflicted ear damage on himself to defeat a foe. (The hero’s reluctance to let on that he relied on a hearing aid once led him to demand interview questions in advance of an appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.”) 

The idea of using sign language came from a source closer to home. “When my wife and I had children, we taught them to sign,” Mr. Fraction said. “It cut down on their frustration immensely because they can tell you want they’re thinking.” 

He consulted with Rachel Coleman, who founded Signing Time, which sells instructional programs aimed at infants and children learning to sign, on how to approach the story’s use of signing. “There was a different grammatical and idiomatic structure,” he said. “Facial expressions were very important.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BBC to quadruple number of disabled people on screen in Great Britain

From The Telegraph in the UK:

The BBC is to quadruple the number of disabled people on screen, it has announced, weeks after unveiling a similar quota system for black and ethnic minority representation.
Lord Hall, the director-general, said it was “vital” that the corporation reflects the make-up of the nation.
Disabled actors, presenters and on-air contributors currently make up 1.2 per cent of those who appear on screen. The target is 5 per cent by 2017. There are also targets of 5.3 per cent for behind-the-scenes staff (currently 3.7 per cent) and 5 per cent for management positions (3.1 per cent).

A new ‘pan-BBC Disability Executive” will be appointed to improve the portrayal of disabled people and to champion disabled talent throughout the corporation. The BBC will open up 150 business support roles to disabled candidates, with disability charities including the Shaw Trust and the Royal National Institute for the Blind “pre-sifting” candidates for interview.

Those roles will “influence cultural change at the BBC by having more people with disabilities working visibly in our buildings and teams across the UK”, a spokesman said.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the Paralympian, will assess the process as a member of the Independent Diversity Advisory Group. The BBC said she would “judge on results, not just efforts”.

Disabled performers and presenters on the BBC include Cerrie Burnell, the CBeebies presenter who was born with part of her right arm missing, and Gary O’Donohue, the political correspondent who is blind.

Lord Hall said: “It is vital we reflect the public we serve – both on and off air. While the BBC has some good schemes in place, we must and can do significantly more.

“We will now work tirelessly to achieve our new ambitions, and reserve the option of going even further in the future.”

The announcement received a cautious welcome from Julie Fernandez (pictured), the actress, presenter and campaigner best known for her role in The Office.

“I think it’s about bloody time,” she said. “But I hope things do change, because I feel like I’ve heard this for the past 20 years.

“Disabled people make up a mass of the population but we’re always portrayed in the same way: as the brave, wonderful heroic person who climbs a mountain or does a sport; as the megalomaniac villain with the eye patch or the mental health problems; or as a medical case."

The disabled should be given roles on television in which their disability is incidental, Fernandez said.

She recalled; "I went for one audition where the character was a secretary who sat behind a desk the whole time. Every scene. But they said I couldn't do it because they hadn't written it as a part for a wheelchair-bound secretary.

“It will only change when disabled people become the writers and casting directors, because at the moment we have got mostly white, middle class, able-bodied men telling us that being disabled must be terribly hard and tragic.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Journalism gives voice to Australian woman with cerebral palsy

From USA Today:

Marlena Katene recently interviewed the music group MKTO without speaking a single word — at least verbally.

The recent college graduate from Gold Coast, Australia was born with high-tone cerebral palsy, rendering her “non-verbal, living in a verbal world.”

The speech and movement disorder has not stopped Katene from establishing a career as an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and music reporter. In respect to the latter, she confidently describes herself as “Australia’s most unique journalist. … I am non-verbal, but will get the big names.”

Katene, 23, graduated in May from Griffith University in Queensland, a state on Australia’s eastern coast. During her time as a journalism student at the school, the big entertainment, business and sports names she interviewed and featured on her YouTube channel included golfer Adam Scott, magician David Copperfield, rapper Xzibit and comedian Russell Brand.

“I can’t escape the fact that I have cerebral palsy,” confirms Katene. “It is pretty hard to hide the fact I get around in a wheelchair. … I can’t hide the fact that I use a talking device and facilitated communication to communicate. My obvious abilities are often overshadowed by my obvious disability, but only to those who do not know me. While I am still young, I would prefer to be known as a journalist, a friend, a writer, an entrepreneur or many other titles rather than being disabled.”

In the exclusive Q&A below, Katene discusses her journalistic and entrepreneurial efforts. She also offers students some basic reporting advice, built atop her “unique journalist” status.

Q: What motivated you to major in journalism at Griffith?
A: I have always liked writing. Having high-tone CP, many may pre-judge me on my body movements. My writing [by comparison] can take 10 minutes or 10 hours to construct and I am judged on the final outcome — not how I got there. … We live in a pretty good age for technology and I have had an amazing team of people over the years that have thought outside the box to ensure my communication needs are met. To me, journalism is simply conveying messages and stories to people that wish to hear them. One of my first classes we were talking about how verbal communication only accounts for a very small part of our entire communication. Therefore, even though I’m non-verbal, I can still pursue this as a career. … Disability or not, journalism is becoming more web-based and I am going to have to be very creative in how I make a career from this.

Q: What were the toughest challenges you faced over the past few years as a journalism student?
A: As a student, my initial challenge was having staff believe the work is my own. They see my body constantly moving, they see me in the wheelchair, etc. Automatically the mind goes into preconceived judgment on my intellectual ability. … Unfortunately that is human nature. I do it, you do it and others do it. So the challenge was to teach people [about] my unique communication technique … [and] get out large pieces of work in similar time to my peers. I could bore you on exactly how this was accomplished, but the course requirements were met and my GPA was well above average.

Once the belief and systems were in place to please lecturers, I actually enjoyed [the university] and found it relatively comfortable compared to my high school years. … My portfolio of interviews has been fun. I’ve had the odd critic suggest I’m a celebrity stalker or a groupie just wanting a free ride. I have had the whole [criticism], “If you didn’t have a disability you wouldn’t get half the interviews.” I think, “Maybe, but maybe not.” I am unique. I have a point of difference and I don’t hide it. How can I?

Q: From my background reading about your work, it is clear you are a burgeoning entrepreneur along with being a journalist. Tell me about this part of your professional life.
A: I believe in this day and age, no matter what you do or your abilities, you have to be creative in how you make a living. I love the fact that there are so many opportunities to make an honest living and at the same time you can enjoy what it is you are doing. In my high school years, I had a few people in the education system who did not see how I could gain meaningful employment. Rather than me having the disability, it was a few people in the system who had the disability. They simply could not see the things I could do, but rather [focused on] the fact I was non-verbal and had cerebral palsy athetosis. …

During this time, my mates were getting jobs and I wanted one as well. I had an account with some savings from my younger years. So I simply bought a business. … It is a kids jumping castle business and operates at markets. I used this as a tool to complete my high school education. As part of my final years, there was an option to do a business certificate. Upon completion of high school, I continued this at higher level and did a diploma in business management while still building the business. What started with one castle and one market now includes 16 castles, two weekly markets and many event and party hires. I split the business and purchased a franchise as well, becoming the youngest franchisee in Australia for specialty castles. …

For me, it’s a balance [between education and entrepreneurship]. My degree has taught me many things and given me credibility, however my networks and business have cemented that no matter what I do in the future I will be successful. My business was simply born out of a desire to earn and contribute. It has given me so much more as far as networks and opportunities for future ventures.

Q: You have an interest in soon putting together a book on non-celebrity heroes. It is clear many people consider YOU a true hero and inspiration. What is your response to being labeled or looked at that way?
A: The word inspiration is weird. To be honest, I don’t like it a great deal because it is used too often to describe ordinary feats. Literally today someone said to me, “Do you walk home yourself? Wow, what an inspiration.” The fact is I have a wheelchair that allows me to be very mobile and driving a mile in it truly is no big deal. So while it was a good intention, [the compliment] actually offended me. … I am 23 years old and while I want to inspire people I don’t want it to be simply because I got out of bed this morning.

This to me suggests that society can place limited expectations on people, and when they achieve the ordinary, people rise to their feet and cheer loudly. … I am inspired by people who go the extra mile, but mainly by people who do something to leave a better planet than what we were left with. People who use their position — whatever it may be — to contribute and make other people successful. Even though I am young in my journey and have many goals, I’m refining my values and one day aim to inspire not because of my disability but because of my contribution in making the world a much better place for those around me. … [E]ven now when I pitch a letter for an interview, I barely mention my disability.

Q: Based on what you learned at Griffith and have accomplished in your career so far, what is your advice for students interested in pursuing journalism in school or as a full-time profession?
A: Try to always keep things positive. The world has way too much negativity. My interviews use a very simple formula: 1) Make the person laugh. 2) Find out quirky or unusual bits of information. 3) Find out something about the subject outside the “typical” industry they’re in. [For example] I found out a certain rapper loved comic books. 4) Make your subject comfortable, then address any negative topics, but always minimize this. 5) Finish with something unique e.g. a song, joke, etc.

This formula will be challenged in the future as I have to interview people I don’t like. In the next few weeks, I am interviewing a man who has ripped off hundreds of millions of people. How will I maintain my integrity yet remain positive? How will I ask the questions people want to hear yet make him laugh? To be honest, I really do not know and this will be a challenge. …

Journalism is awesome. There is always a need for people to hear stories, and words have such power. If we are ethical in how we report, our journalism can literally change the course of history. We can be the voice of the future.

Miss Idaho proudly sports her insulin pump attached to her bikini bottom during swimsuit competition

From NPR:

There she is, Miss Idaho. And there it is, the insulin pump attached to her bikini bottom during the swimsuit competition. Since posting the photo on social media on Monday, Sierra Sandison has become a new hero to the Type 1 diabetes community.

One mother , "You changed my 11-year-old daughter's summer! She's been so self-conscious, but since she read about you and saw this photo, she cannot wait to wear a bathing suit tomorrow and show off her insulin [pump] and have me post a photo here!"

And that woman is not alone. As of Thursday afternoon, the photo has received more than 4,000 "likes" and over 2,500 "shares" on . Twitter users are responding to the she created, #showmeyourpump, with their own pump photos.

Insulin pumps ease diabetes control in many ways, but wearing one is a personal choice. People with Type 1 diabetes can also use multiple daily injections to control the condition. In her , Sandison, 20, of Twin Falls, Idaho, says that she used injections when she began competing in pageants because "I didn't want people to see a weird-tubey-machine-thing attached to me all the time, and could not wrap my head around having a medical device on my body for the rest of my life."

What changed her mind for the Miss Idaho pageant on July 12th? Hearing about Miss America 1999, Nicole Johnson, who also wore an insulin pump during the competition, although not visibly. Sandison writes, "Miss America 1999 has an insulin pump, and it doesn't make her any less beautiful. In fact, in my mind, it enhances her beauty!"

Johnson, who has continued her since her reign, tells Shots, "I think diabetes technology has become more socially acceptable because of the dominance of social media and our 'selfie' culture." She adds: "Our culture seems to be more accepting today, as opposed to when I was diagnosed in 1993."

Indeed, medical device-wearing "pride" appears to be a trend. Amputees are increasingly using rather than covering them up. And the ostomy community has its own of the "show me" campaign.

On Facebook, Ms. Sandison also received thanks from two parents of kids who wear other medical devices: hearing aids and a feeding tube.

As an insulin "pumper" myself, I can attest to the hesitancy to wear a visible medical device – I resisted for years before deciding to use the pump in 2007. But now I wear it proudly. It's really fun for me to randomly run into another "pumper" on the street and strike up a conversation as if we were old friends. And in fact, that happens fairly often.

Johnson agrees. "It seems that insulin pumps and diabetes devices are now a symbol of community," she told me. "It is becoming more and more common to see them widely displayed, because of the opportunity that brings for connection to others. In the diabetes community, we use the visibility of our devices as a badge of courage and a connector. There is a pride in successfully managing the condition and surviving. One hundred years ago there were no survivors of Type 1 diabetes."

How closed captions increase video views, rankings, ROI

From reelseo:

How many times have you thought to yourself, "I wish there were an easy way to get people to find my videos"? While many people assume that the sole purpose of captions is accessibility, in fact, captions also provide an easy way to boost your video SEO. Recent studies conducted by Discovery Digital Networks, SafeNet, and the radio show This American Life have proven that adding closed captions and transcripts to videos increases search traffic, page views, search rank, and engagement. In this article we'll examine how these studies help to understand the impact of captions and transcripts on SEO, as well as how we can use them to do an ROI analysis.

Increasing Views by Adding Captions to YouTube Videos

Discovery Digital Networks was interested in adding captions to their YouTube channels, but wanted to determine the validity of doing so before moving forward. Over a 16-month period, they conducted a controlled study of captioning across 8 of their channels. Through 3Play Media, they captioned 125 of 334 videos published between January 2013 and April 2014, measuring the effects of captioning against the 209 uncaptioned videos.

How Closed Captions Increase Video Views, Rankings and ROI [Study]

Discovery Digital Networks found a significant increase in views attributable to captioning, as well as proof that captions improve SEO. In the first 14 days after adding closed captions, they documented a 13.48% increase in views; the lifetime increase in views was also significant, at 7.32%.

Further, to test the SEO value of closed captions, they searched on YouTube for keywords that appeared in the caption file of a video but did not appear in the description, title, or tags. They found that their video ranked 4th for the term, proving that captions influence search rank and improve keyword density and diversity.

How Closed Captions Increase Video Views, Rankings and ROI [Study]

Improving Traffic and User Engagement with Audio Transcripts

This American Life, a weekly public radio show, began transcribing their audio archive in 2011 through 3Play Media. With data collected over a 36-month period, they were able to analyze the impact of transcripts on SEO. The effect of transcripts on user engagement was assessed by measuring the percent of unique visitors who viewed a transcript.

They found that 7.23% viewed at least one transcript. Further, they found a 6.68% increase in search traffic attributable to transcripts.

How Closed Captions Increase Video Views, Rankings and ROI [Study]

Improving Search Engine Rank with Transcripts

Transcription has been a core part of SafeNet's video SEO strategy for years; recently, they were curious to see how quickly video transcription made an impact on SEO. Using competitive keywords, they searched one of their videos over a 3-week period.

By the end of the third week, their video ranked on the first page of Bing and Yahoo (Google tends to take longer to rank new content). Their study shows that even in a short amount of time, you can make a dramatic impact on video SEO by adding transcripts.

How Closed Captions Increase Video Views, Rankings and ROI [Study]

ROI of YouTube Captioning

The metrics of monetizing a video on YouTube are complex, and many factors (including those documented in the studies above) influence how much you will earn as a partner on YouTube. The data from Discovery Digital Networks helps to understand how much someone could expect to make off of the increase in views attributable to captioning.

The following is an ROI analysis based on the 7.32% lifetime increase. Again, keep in mind that factors other than views will affect your CPM, and it is likely that the increases in user engagement, search traffic, search rank, and keyword diversity recorded in the case studies above would further improve your ROI.

How Closed Captions Increase Video Views, Rankings and ROI [Study]
For the purposes of this analysis, we will consider CPM earnings of anywhere between $1 and $10. Most partners earn on the lower end of this range, but some YouTube channels can earn closer to $10 CPM.

Captioning a 2-minute video through 3Play Media or would cost $5. If your CPM is closer to $10, you would need about 6,800 lifetime views to pay back the cost of captioning. On the low end of the CPM range, you would need 68,000 lifetime views to reach a positive ROI.

Potential Earnings Attributable to Captions

Given this ROI analysis, it is easy to determine from an economics standpoint whether or not it is worth captioning your YouTube channel. Of course, the case studies above prove the worth of adding captions for other reasons. Let's analyze two Discovery Digital Networks channels to better portray the potential earnings of adding captions to your YouTube channel. Keep in mind that these are hypothetical estimates, and were not part of the Discovery Digital Networks study.

A channel like DNews, which has around 130 million views, could expect to gain about 10 million views as a result of captioning their videos (given the documented 7.32% increase). DNews has about 1100 videos, each around 3 minutes long, so it would cost approximately $8,250 to caption their entire channel. Using the $1-$10 CPM range, the 10 million views gained from captions would equate to earnings anywhere between $10,000 and $100,000. Subtracting the cost of captions, the ROI would be between $1,750 and $91,750.

How Closed Captions Increase Video Views, Rankings and ROI [Study]

A smaller Discovery Digital Networks channel, Shots of Awe, has just over 7 million views and could expect to gain over 500,000 views by captioning the whole channel. Shots of Awe has almost 50 videos, each approximately 2.5 minutes long, so captioning the whole channel would cost about $312.50. Using our CPM range of $1-$10, the 500,000 views gained from captions would equate to earnings between $500 and $5,000. Minus the cost of captions, their ROI would be between $187.50 and $4,687.50. Again, the cost of captioning would be paid back and more.

How Closed Captions Increase Video Views, Rankings and ROI [Study]

Quantifying the Benefits of Captioning

The SEO studies conducted by Discovery Digital Networks, This American Life, and SafeNet help quantify the benefits of captioning and transcription. The documented increases in views, search traffic, user engagement, and search rank represent exciting measures of the impact of captioning on video SEO.

Further, the Discovery Digital Networks data on percent increase in views allows us to estimate the ROI of captioning YouTube videos, which has been difficult to quantify until now. Deciding whether or not to caption your video content depends on a number of factors; however, the positive results of these case studies are hard to ignore, and many people find that the benefits of captioning are well worth the investment.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

World Cup advertisers evenly split on captions for deaf viewers

From business2community:

Argentina and Germany aren’t the only FIFA World Cup powerhouses heading into Sunday’s final gleaming with pride.  A handful of big consumer brands have used the marketing power of World Cup to show deaf and hard-of-hearing TV viewers that they care.

McDonald’s, the U.S. Navy, Gillette, Coors Light, Bacardi, Mountain Dew, Taco Bell and Degree consistently subtitled their commercials that aired during World Cup games on ABC and ESPN.

So did Sprint, Verizon, Samsung, and Cricket Wireless.  AT&T and T-Mobile produced some commercials containing closed captions and others that did not.

Since 2006, the Federal Communications Commission has mandated that 100% of all new, non-exempt, English-language television programming must be produced and presented with closed captions.

Commercials have been exempt from the captioning requirement, but the Association of National Advertisers published a joint paper with the FCC, “The Benefits of Closed Captioning Commercials,” in 2010 calling for voluntary compliance.  Four years later, many commercials produced by national, and local, advertisers are still not captioned.

Gerry Buckley, president of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, maintains brands that do not caption are ignoring a fast-growing segment of the population – the deaf, those who lose hearing later in life, and older Americans who are hard of hearing.

“They have buying power,” said Buckley, who is deaf and feels that businesses should build the cost of communicating with all consumers into their business models. “They should be seeing it as a part of their responsibility to reach a new audience.”

The Center for Hearing and Communication reports 38 million Americans, about 12% of the population, have some degree of hearing loss. In older populations, a demographic with more buying power, as many as 45% are hard of hearing.

The Super Bowl, famous for its highly produced and extremely expensive commercials, has been targeted by the National Association of the Deaf over the lack of captioning on TV spots.  The campaign was successful, doubling the number of commercials that included subtitles.

As World Cup popularity grows in the United States, our team at the media monitoring firm Critical Mention reviewed commercials during the first two weeks of play.  We found a relatively even split between sponsors who invested in captioning – estimated to cost as little as $150 for a 30-second spot – versus those who let the commercial air au naturel.

Interestingly, Google, the leader in online advertising, did not provide closed captions commercials for YouTube that aired on TV June 14-15. Google’s competitors, Apple and Microsoft, did provide closed captions.

Car companies Kia and Ford did not close-caption their commercials. Hyundai subtitled some of its commercials, but not all.

Ratings for FIFA World Cup have been huge.  The June 22 U.S. vs. Portugal game on ESPN drew a record audience for soccer, with an average of 18.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

Online sharing of commercials produced for the World Cup has been fierce, too.  A study by Unruly found the top 20 most shared World Cup commercials attracted almost a third more shares than the top 20 Super Bowl 2014 ads.

Friday, July 11, 2014

StoryCorps: Sharing vignettes of American life, living with a disability

From SF Weekly:

A young man thanks his dance teacher for giving him shelter from abusive parents in high school. An American soldier describes to her girlfriend the misery of welcoming the coffins of fellow soldiers back to American soil. A husband and wife discuss the financial hardships and spiritual rewards of running a rat sanctuary within their home. These are the people of StoryCorps, a non-profit oral history project that captures and preserves vignettes of American life.

The organization's simple design invites any individual to interview someone about a personal topic -- and the results that are rarely less than breathtaking. And in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, from July 10 through Dec. 13 StoryCorps will partner with the Disability Visibility Campaign to collect the unique stories of people who have experienced disability.

StoryCorps has three permanent recording booths, including the one on the sixth floor of the San Francisco Public Library Main Branch where all stories including those in honor of the ADA anniversary can be recorded.

"Storycorps provides a platform that's approachable to all people" says project coordinator Alice Wong.
In the highly curated clips of some StoryCorps conversations, which run on NPR's "Morning Edition," speakers tend to have distinguished themselves not through by exercising their humanity in moments fraught with difficulty.

And now, the 10-year-old oral history project will collaborate with the Disability Visibility project in honor the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by telling stories through conversation, which, if previous StoryCorps are any reference, will include tears, humor, and foul-mouthed centenarians.

"It's my hope that the minutiae of the lived experience of people with disabilities are documented alongside the 'big' things such as activism, policy making and advocacy. All these things matter and are part of disability history," says Wong.

Making a reservation is easy, just be sure to specify that you want your story to be included in the Disability Visibility Project in the "Notes" section. Appointments at the Public Library take about 40 minutes and may take place in any language the participants choose. Each participants will receive a recording of their interviews and one copy will join other stories at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

The StoryCorps and Disability Visibility collaboration is billed as a "community partnership," which is fitting because the fleeting community created between listener and speakers during StoryCorps episodes often feels as strong as those speaking. Other StoryCorps San Francisco community partners include Support for Families and Fabled Asp, which focus on support for children and lesbians with disabilities.

Jeremy Helton, national marketing and communications manager for StoryCorps says that this community partnership hopes "to encourage people with disabilities to record their stories during the ADA anniversary month, but our interest in recording the stories of people with disabilities is year round."

In a recent interview Wong added: "Rather than waiting for historians to identify and document events that are 'significant,' StoryCorps and this project encourages people to decide what's important. All people can create and record history and all people have stories that are worth sharing and preserving."

No story too inconsequential, no disability excluded; join StoryCorps and the Disability Visibility Project this year at the public library to make disability not just visible, but audible.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Paralympian Amy Purdy goes nude for ESPN body issue


The Paralympic snowboarder and "Dancing with the Stars" runner-up is one of many athletes taking it all off for ESPN The Magazine's annual Body Issue.

"What I love about my body, especially right now, is just how strong it is," she tells the mag. "I've felt that contrast of it being as weak and vulnerable as it could be. When I was in the hospital and I lost my legs -- to go from that to feeling stronger than ever, and knowing the strength of my body has been what's gotten me to where I'm at today, as far as the Paralympics and 'Dancing With the Stars' goes -- I'm so proud of how healthy I am."

Purdy, 34, also opens up about how she became a double amputee.

"I was 19 years old, and I felt like I had the flu one day. Within 24 hours, I was in the hospital on life support, and I was given less than a 2 percent chance of living,' she says. "It took five days for the doctors to find out that I had contracted bacterial meningitis. I ended up losing my legs below the knees from septic shock. But I have to say that if I had not gone through that experience, I certainly wouldn't be where I'm at today."

Purdy is joined by stars like Michael Phelps, Venus Williams and Prince Fielder in the latest issue, which hits newsstands July 11.

Monday, July 7, 2014

In Britain, BBC failure to use disabled actors is 'absolute disgrace', says actress/comedian with CP

From The Telegraph in the UK:

The BBC’s failure to put disabled actors on screen is an “absolute disgrace”, the actress Francesca Martinez (pictured) has said, as she accuses executives of talking about diversity for decades without action.
Martinez, a comedian who has cerebral palsy, said the BBC had “no leg to stand on” in its attitude towards disabled people, claiming it is merely one of their “favourite subjects” to talk about in futile conferences.
Arguing it was unfair to compel disabled viewers to pay their licence fee without seeing their lives reflected on screen, the actress disclosed she was once told the corporation did not want to turn EastEnders into a “freak show”.
Speaking at the Telegraph Ways With Words festival about her book, she added she had once turned down a non-speaking, non-moving role as a coma patient.
Martinez, who has starred in Ricky Gervais’ comedy Extras and Grange Hill, told an audience the BBC must do more to put diversity on screen.
“They like to talk about this subject; it’s one of their favourite subjects,” she said.

“I think it’s an absolute disgrace that we pay the licence fee and so few of us are represented. To me they have no leg to stand on.

“They do need to do a lot more. They’re in such a position of power. They need to reflect all the citizens in this country.”

She added: “I’ve been going to BBC conferences for 20 years about how to get more diversity on screen. As if it’s f----- rocket science – put more diversity onscreen.

“I went to a conference about 15 years ago and the producers of EastEnders were there. One ended it by saying ‘diversity is important, but we’ve got to be careful not to turn EastEnders into a freakshow’.”

She joked: “Have you seen EastEnders?”

Martinez told an audience she had once been offered the role of a woman who could not “speak, move or have any kind of expression”, which the BBc presented to her “very excitedly” as an example of ensring diverse representation on screen.

“I wrote back saying I didn’t think I possessed the skill to pull off such a demanding role,” she said.

A spokesman for the BBC said: “We agree more needs to be done across the broadcast industry, but we have never been idle, and have award winning programmes designed to tackle the issue. Alongside this, we have only just announced new specialist posts in BBC journalism. We have never been complacent and will continue to work hard to do all we can."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

'My Way to Olympia' explores Paralympics through eyes of disabled filmmaker, Niko von Glasow

The documentary will premiere on PBS' POV on July 7, 2014. It will be online July 8, 2014 – Aug. 7, 2014.

Film's description from PBS

Who better to cover the Paralympics, the international sporting event for athletes with physical and mental disabilities, than the world's best-known disabled filmmaker? Born with severely shortened arms as a result of his mother taking the drug thalidomide in the late 1950s and early 1960s, German director Niko von Glasow has charted an enviable film career, transitioning from making coffee for famed director Rainer Werner Fassbinder to directing his own award-winning movies (NoBody's Perfect, Wedding Guests). In My Way to Olympia, Niko is at his comic and heartfelt best.

In the opening shot, the filmmaker declares that "basically I think sports suck, and the Paralympics is a stupid idea." Yet his rumpled sincerity and warm-hearted skepticism are irresistible. As the story unfolds, his own stereotypes about disability and sports get delightfully punctured.

Niko's distaste for athletics is rooted in his frustrations as a disabled child forced to play sports. Moreover, without having yet attended the Paralympics, he wonders if they are "a big show to disguise the big problem between society and disabled people." So he sets off, sometimes accompanied by his 14-year-old non-disabled son, Mandel, to meet a few of the top Paralympic competitors and to follow their fortunes as they prepare for and compete in the 2012 games in London. He questions why those for whom daily life is such a struggle would put themselves through such ordeals. Is it all a feel-good exercise?

What Niko discovers is a group of incredibly adaptable, determined and optimistic people performing athletic feats sometimes more astounding than those of regular Olympic athletes.

The American armless archer Matt Stutzman was born with a defect similar Niko's and competes with a specially adapted bow he operates with his feet and teeth. Matt lives in Fairfield, Iowa, with his wife and three young sons, and he fires his powerful arrows straight to the bullseye in some of the most amazing sports footage anyone will ever see. Niko and his able-bodied teenage son can barely lift the bow, yet Matt uses it to win enough competitions to provide for his family. A staunch supporter of American citizens' right to bear arms, Matt shows off his rifle skills and counters Niko's argument that in Europe, very few people die from gunshots, by pointing out that Europeans just stab each other with knives instead.

Niko begins to learn that Paralympic sports are less about disabilities than about being the best at something--the same reason every athlete in the world competes. He goes on to meet Norway's one-armed table tennis player Aida Husic Dahlen, the entire Rwandan sitting volleyball team and Greek paraplegic boccia player Greg Polychronidis. Aida's moves quickly make you forget she's missing a limb. The Rwandans lost their feet (and in some cases their legs as well) to land mines and other weapons during their country's civil war. Greg, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, competes entirely with his head while seated in a wheelchair.

Fascinated as he is by the athletes' ingenious methods, Niko isn't shy about questioning their motives--or bringing up more intimate subjects, such as sex, depression, fear and death. Far from being put off by the filmmaker's candor, the athletes respond with enthusiastic explanations and demonstrations, and not a little candor of their own.

The director's conversations with the Rwandans, who deal not only with missing limbs but also the traumas of brutal civil war, are touching, funny and instructive. Niko asks one of the players who on the team is Hutu and who is Tutsi. The man claims not to know, and insists he's never been asked. Surprisingly, the young Rwandan refuses to talk about his country's divided past, which Niko likens this to his own Jewish father's refusal to talk about Nazism after World War II.

Similarly, when Niko learns that Aida from Norway was originally an orphan of the Bosnian War, he's amazed to find she has never looked at images of that conflict or of her childhood before she was adopted. Matt the archer was adopted at birth, and even though he knows his biological parents, he has never asked them why they chose not to keep him. Niko begins to feel that perhaps it's better to leave painful questions and memories unspoken.

Niko sees that his questions about early death can pause but not dim the love that surrounds boccia player Greg and allows the wheelchair-bound athlete to go for the gold. He has an extremely warm and welcoming family--his coach is his father--and they say that they are helped and enriched much more by having Greg in their lives than he is helped by them.

Niko's skepticism softens as he increasingly identifies with the athletes and their struggles. And while no one expects him to sign up for a sport any time soon, he develops admiration for his subjects and a new, slightly-less-curmudgeonly respect for the world of Paralympic sports. By the time Niko and Greg travel together to the Greek city of Olympia, they are so close that Niko instinctively bends to put a hand on Greg's shoulder as they proceed down a ramp into the world's first Olympic arena. They begin to play boccia in the ancient Olympic dust — only to be told that sports are prohibited at the site.

My Way to Olympia is a fresh and fascinating take on the often-sobering subject of disability. It's also a fresh and fascinating take on humanity's common and persistent trait--the will to win. In fact, as the credits roll, Niko quips in his usual barbed way that his working title for the film was Triumph of the Will, Part 2.
"So many people, myself included, live in denial of their weaknesses," says Niko. "These athletes are confronting their disabilities head-on, striving to conquer them. A man with no arms doesn't have to take up archery, and his life would be much easier if he hadn't. The more time I spent with these athletes, the more I understood that they aren't just trying to be 'as good as' non-disabled athletes.

"I found the Paralympics altogether more interesting, fun, human and inclusive than the Olympic Games," he continues. "As my relationships with my subjects became more intimate and, at times, more intrusive, I realized that Paralympians are much purer examples of the original Olympic spirit than many able-bodied Olympians. You can't become a Paralympic athlete without totally embracing the ideals of togetherness and shared participation. Even I, who will certainly never win Paralympic gold, found myself caught up in that spirit, and unable to resist taking part."

Could Tourette's syndrome make a soccer goalkeeper better?

From the BBC in the UK:

Tim Howard's (pictured) World Cup goalkeeping has been universally acclaimed. Might his Tourette's syndrome explain some element of his superb reactions?

It was a remarkable display - 15 saves in a single World Cup match. Although it wasn't enough to prevent his team losing to Belgium, USA keeper Tim Howard's fine performance has been one of the highlights of the tournament.

Previously, the Everton player has suggested that the fact he lives with Tourette's syndrome - a condition characterized by multiple motor tics, and at least one vocal tic - has made him a better athlete. At the age of 18 or 19 "I realized I was faster than others when it came to certain movements, and that these reflexes were linked to my disorder", he told the German newspaper Spiegel in 2013. Is he correct?

He might be. Studies have shown that individuals with Tourette's are "super-good at controlling their voluntary movements", says Georgina Jackson, professor of cognitive neuropsychology at the University of Nottingham. A hypothesis is that people with the condition become highly conscious of their physical actions as they learn to control their tics. 

People with Tourette's commonly say that activities requiring concentration - such as playing sport or a musical instrument - can help to alleviate their symptoms. A recent study in which Jackson participated suggested that physical exercise significantly reduced tic rates among people with Tourette's. "This control mechanism kicks in that allows them to perform," she says. "That has benefits for your voluntary movements, whether it's goalkeeping or at laboratory level." As Howard himself told Der Speigel: "As soon as things get serious in front of the goal, I don't have any twitches; my muscles obey me then."

Reducing tics at certain points in time should not be confused with a cure, says Jess Thom, co-founder of the website Touretteshero. Nonetheless, she hopes Howard's extraordinary performance in Brazil will have a positive impact beyond football. "Having role models is very important - especially with a condition like Tourette's that is subject to so much myth."