There are no standards!

This is the real reason why everything else we’ve mentioned here is happening. We want to write and test a set of standards for captioning (and more) – independently, honestly, and out in the open. We need your help.

If you want to know the fundamental reason why CAPTIONING SUCKS!, it’s because there are no standards.

It’s true that some government agencies and regulators, and some private companies, have attempted to write standards for captioning already. But that happened behind closed doors. You had no input on it whatsoever. And all that really happened with those “standards” was the following: Captioners wrote down what they already do.

There’s almost never any research backing up these so-called standards, and they are never tested in the real world before going into effect. Many of the people working on these standards have a financial stake in the process. (Deciding on a radically different standard might cost them money.) Few, if any, of the people writing these so-called standards are experts in linguistics or psychology of reading. A lot of them don’t even watch captioning all day.

This approach has never worked, but it’s being done all over again right now – in Canada (for TV captioning) and in the U.S. (for online captioning).

This is much worse than the fact that regulators and broadcasters are good friends and go to work for each other. Under the guise of self-regulation, industry and broadcasters have slapped together flimsy standards that aren’t based on science and haven’t been tested. And they’ve done it in secret.

We’re going to change that. We’re the Open & Closed Project, an independent, nonprofit body that will write and test a set of standards for captioning – and also for audio description (for blind and visually-impaired viewers), subtitling, and dubbing.

We’re going to write these standards on the basis of research and evidence. If the research or evidence we need isn’t there, we’ll do our own research and gather our own evidence. Unless we’re legally required to do otherwise, the entire process will be carried out in the open, and everyone, without limitation, may contribute. (But because we’re writing a standard, which has to be an unchanging document, this is not an open-source project.)

We’ll publish our specifications. Then we’ll spend a year testing them in the real world to make sure they work. Then we’ll train and certify practitioners, meaning it will finally be possible to become a certified captioner. The whole project will take four to seven years.

To do this, we need about $5 million to $7 million. That’s peanuts! We’ve already spent four years trying to scare up half a million bucks in startup costs, but we’ve been stonewalled and ignored at every turn. We need help and support, and we need a lot of it. We aren’t asking for donations from individuals, but we are asking you to support our cause. Visit us at the Open & Closed Project and find out how →