AOL Announces Closed Captions for Online Video


Editor: We’ve long been concerned that new technologies are being developed without considering accessibility to people with hearing loss. An example is the proliferation of uncaptioned online videos. Now AOL is announcing a program to caption streaming news content, which is great news for the hearing loss community! Hopefully this is just the first instance of what will soon become universal practice. Here’s the press release.

Captioning Will Provide Web Users Who Are Deaf Or Hard of Hearing With Enhanced Access To CNN Streaming Video Content

DULLES, VA – July 20, 2006 — AOL today announced it is now testing closed captions for streaming news content from CNN that will enhance the online media experience for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captioned CNN video content will be available throughout the AOL network, including the AOL service, the free Web portal ( and the AOL Video portal (

AOL(r), which is the first consumer Internet service to provide captioned online videos, has offered closed captioning since 2003 for select content on its KOL(r) service for kids aged 6 to 12, including “Princess Natasha(tm),” the original cartoon series created exclusively for KOL. AOL also offered synchronized text transcripts for CNN news updates that were limited to the text of a news anchor’s script. Now, content from CNN, including videos for the day’s headlines, current events, new stories, entertainment and more, will be manually captioned to ensure all of the audio in a video stream is completely accessible. AOL plans to provide closed captioning for additional video content over the coming months.

AOL has been working on this initiative with WGBH’s Media Access Group, the pioneering organization behind the development of technologies and services that make all forms of media accessible to the 36 million Americans who rely on captioning or video descriptions. This work was also supported by a grant to WGBH from NEC Foundation of America, which supports programs with national reach and impact in assistive technology for people with disabilities.

“Online captioning is a central accessibility issue for the deaf community and hard-of-hearing community and we are excited to be at the forefront of the movement,” said Tom Wlodkowski, Director of Accessibility, for AOL. “Key to our progress has been our collaboration with WGBH and support from content partners such as CNN. We look forward to working with additional content providers to expand the availability of captioned video content across the AOL network.”

“Offering consumers a complete and comprehensive online video experience is one of AOL’s top priorities and a big part of that is providing them with a top-notch playback experience,” said Kevin Conroy, Executive Vice President, for AOL. “Closed captioning unlocks a new world for millions of consumers who, until now, have been unable to fully experience viewing videos online.”

The Media Access Group at WGBH is honored to have worked with AOL on the pioneering effort to bring closed captions to the Web,” said Larry Goldberg, Director of the Media Access Group at WGBH. “The numerous challenges that needed to be overcome were matched by AOL’s institutional commitment to serving everyone, everywhere. AOL is to be congratulated for committing serious resources to adding cutting-edge accessibility to their services.”

This launch underscores AOL’s commitment to accessibility and ease-of-use and is an important milestone for both AOL and for the deaf community, whose leaders have been advocating for online captioning similar to ongoing advocacy efforts for captions on television programming. With the tremendous growth of video content online, AOL is focused on addressing the technical and production complexities that will lead to an increased availability of captioned video streams.

Similar to closed captioning for television, AOL captions are displayed directly beneath the video window and correspond to the audio content. Activating the captions is easy and convenient with a simple click on the “CC” button that appears on AOL’s media player.

“The League for the Hard of Hearing congratulates AOL on their initiative to produce and deliver closed captions for video assets. Captions are an essential tool for deaf and hard of hearing people and now AOL’s captioned videos will enable them to better comprehend what they’re seeing and hearing on the Web,” said Joseph Gordon, Committee Chair, for the League for the Hard of Hearing. “This is a major step forward in the company’s implementation of products and services for consumers with disabilities and is coherent with accessibility principles.”

“The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) salutes AOL’s efforts to make the online world accessible to all,” said Nancy J. Bloch, Chief Executive Officer, of the NAD.

“Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI) commends AOL on this pace-setting initiative,” said Claude Stout, Executive Director for TDI. “This is a rare instance where we do not have to rely on regulation to make captioning access happen for us on the Internet. A big round of congratulations goes to AOL for extending a number of fully accessible videos to individuals who depend on text or captions to view videos. AOL continues to lead in its pursuits to make accessible its information services to all.”

“AOL’s launch of closed captioned streaming videos is a tremendous step towards making the Internet more accessible for consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Cheryl Heppner, Executive Director, for the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons. “It’s been difficult for them to enjoy video content on the Web, but with AOL’s closed captioning initiative, now they’ll be able to understand the audio component of streaming video.”

AOL’s captioning initiative is an extension of AOL’s Accessibility Policy, a company wide priority that aims to address and meet the technology needs of people with disabilities. More information on AOL’s accessibility efforts is available at

Closed captions for streaming videos builds upon AOL’s leadership position as one of the best online destinations for video. AOL delivers an array of products and services that together provide a complete video experience, including compelling video programming, best-in-class video search and a high-quality video playback experience for all Internet consumers.


For more information on AOL’s closed captioning initiative and for direct links to closed captioned videos, please visit

The minimum system requirements to view closed captioned videos are:

* Operating System: Windows 2000 SP4; Windows XP SP1, SP2; Windows XP MCE 2005; and Win XP MCE 2005 rollup 2.

* Media Player: Windows Media Player version 7.1 or higher.

* Browser: Internet Explorer version 6.0 or higher; Firefox version 1.07 or higher; Netscape 7.2 or higher; AOL Explorer version 1.1 or higher

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