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Section 508 Compliant Podcasting and Undue Burden November 22, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Captioning, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting.

In general, the purpose of section 508 is to build as much accessibility as is reasonably possible into general products developed, procured, maintained, or used by agencies. I received some email from my post yesterday about Section 508 Compliant Podcasts asking “What about undue burden?”

The actual wording of the text is… do all the accessibility things… “unless an undue burden would be placed on that agency to do so.”

Undue burden is defined as “significant difficulty or expense.” Though significant is relative, when it comes to podcasting, I believe we can break it down to the following:

To be 508 complaint, there are two main things you must do… certain podcasts meeting the agency mission criteria are under the multimedia file definition of the 508 standards and must be (1) captioned or (2) audio described depending on the format and content of the podcast.

Let’s start with (2) audio described. Laying a voice over track to video if you’re doing podcasting isn’t hard. This is something that you should be capable of and not a problem.

In contrast, (1) captioning is not in the typical suite of tools for a podcaster. So far, we have solved this issue with transcripts for audio podcasts, and there are companies that do this for you, or you can do your own transcription. Video podcasts require more time and effort. Though again, there are companies that will do captioning of video, it can sometimes be expensive to do so. Tools and software for closed captioning video are also fairly expensive and some podcatchers do not accept the file formats needed to caption the video.

I believe this is where undue burden can be applied. To the weekly podcaster who is podcasting as a hobby, closed captioning may be out of reach. I think you can safely say that undue burden is met at this point and you will provide a transcript of the audio with audio description to get as close to accessible as possible. For the company, university, or agency that is video podcasting, has a podcast meeting the agency mission criteria, and has the resources to open or close caption the video… I believe the law states that it needs to be captioned.



1. Joe Clark - November 25, 2006

You can’t audio-describe an audio-only program. There are no visuals to describe.

2. Jeff - December 4, 2006

That’s why I said: “Let’s start with (2) audio described. Laying a voice over track to video if you’re doing podcasting isn’t hard.”… video.

3. Mike - December 5, 2006

OK, at the community college level, an instructor recording every lecture for student download, does not have the time nor resources to take and make each Podcast 508 compliant. What are the realities of undue burden to this instructor who wants to offer this type of service in a timley fashion?

4. Jeff - December 7, 2006

There actually isn’t a time limit (as far as I can tell) on how quickly the transcriptions come out. Just as you can release the podcasts whenever you like, the transcripts could come after the podcast is released (which is the case with most). Some online transcription services will subscribe to your podcast feed and ensure that your transcript is available in 24 hours. Some will give you an RSS feed of your transcripts. So, those in your class who would like the audio could subscribe to your podcast rss that comes out the day after your class, and others could subscribe to your transcript rss that comes out two days after your class. If you have a student with some initiative and typing abilities, maybe they would want to transcript it. I’m going to do another post right now on class notes vs. class transcription.

5. Rich Baker - March 28, 2007

Jeff, I’d like to tell you about a software product of The University of Southern Mississippi’s Institute for Disability Studies. It’s called “IDS Caption” and can be downloaded from download.com or our site. It will help transcribe any Windows Media (audio or video) or even mp3 files. If you have Windows Media Player 10 or above installed, it will allow you to slow the media down enought to type it. When you hit enter at the end of a line, it starts a new caption and times the caption accordingly with the media being played. The output is a SAMI file. If the SAMI file is named the same as the media file and is saved in the same directory (even online), just starting or downloaded the media file will start the imbedded captions. Check it out at http://www.usm.edu/ids/idsproducts.

6. Jeff - April 12, 2007

Here’s a quick start of IDS Caption if you already have a transcript:

1) Save the transcript in TXT format in a working folder (preferably where your media file is stored)
2) Open IDS Caption
3) File > Import Text Script > Enter the maximum number of characters in each caption, ex: 100.
4) File > Open Media
5) Be ready to hit the [Set Time] button each time you want to advance the caption. [Stop] will stop the media and start over from the beginning. [Play/Pause] can be accessed with the [Tab] key on the keyboard.
6) When finished captioning the media, select
a. Windows Media > Export SAMI.

Be sure to name the SAMI file the same as your media file. That way it will play automatically if they’re in the same directory and you won’t need the ASX file. That’s it in a nutshell.

7. Interviewed on Web Axe Podcast « Jeffrey Daniel Frey’s Blog - November 25, 2007

[…] Section 508 Compliant Podcasting and Undue Burden […]

8. Kat - March 10, 2008

Please understand the law before you pretend to know anything about Section 508. Section 508 only pertains to Federal agencies, but considering the number of ADA lawsuits that have been placed on corporate companies and the fact that Section 508 guidelines are considered part of best practices, there is no reason that any web content cannot be made compliant. The misconception that transcripts fulfill the requirement for video “captioning” is wrong. If the media is visual in nature, meaning VIDEO, then both audio descriptions and captioning, whether closed or open, should be included as necessary. If you don’t know when its necessary then you don’t understand the law. As for AUDIO ONLY files, that’s when transcripts are considered alternative formats. Supplying transcripts for videos are optional and not required for Section 508 compliance, but since you need to have the transcript to create the captioning I recommend you make it available as well since it can be beneficial for some users. As for claiming something “takes too long” makes it an “undue burden” you have a misunderstanding of undue burden. Having hand captioned several videos myself, I know they CAN take a while, but as I have planned new videos I have come up with ways that reduce the total amount of time it takes to produce, film, caption and publish videos. All it takes is a little creative planning and time can be reduced from weeks to hours.

9. Jeff - March 10, 2008

Thanks for the comments. If you read other posts on the site, and even the summary of this post, it states that for “the company, university, or agency” that is releasing podcasts “the law states that it needs to be captioned.” I actually did speak with legal representation who deals with these cases for a state agency before writing the original post and was told, in so many words, that a lawsuit would most likely not be brought against a weekend podcaster releasing a short video on something unique such as a record collection.

Technology is getting better to do captioning, as you state, and I think the effort should be made to do so by everyone. In the very near future, though, software such as iMovie will start to come with a plug-in to do captioning, giving everyone a quick way to do it.

If you are using a certain software or have found good, quick, or easy ways to caption your videos, please share them.

10. Cheryl Evans - November 11, 2008

I understand for so many of you this entire issue seems to be an “undue burden” but the reality is for someone like myself, who depends on the words across the screen to actually understand and put the entire piece into perspective, I am not given the opportunity and option of many programs regardless of the length or level of professionalism the “artist” who created it.

In short, there are many times when I cannot look at a potential client’s work because without the caption, I have no idea what important conversation or plot point is taking place off camera…try watching something with your ears plugged and see how long before you do something else, walk a mile.

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