Mockarena, Co-Founder

My mom asked me the other day if I’d heard about UC Berkeley’s online lecture videos, and what had recently become of them. I hadn’t, and as she filled me in, I got more and more enraged.

So, apparently, for quite some time now, Berkeley has made 20,000 lecture videos available to the public for free on YouTube and via other platforms. For people who cannot afford tuition, or who aren’t interested in college credit, but who wanted the opportunity to listen to lectures from Berkeley’s professors, this was a pretty fantastic offering. Say what you want about Berkeley and its crazy liberal nuttiness, but online lectures from top professors for free? That’s flat awesome.

Fast forward to last week. As of the 15th of March, those videos are being pulled off of YouTube because they are out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). How are they out of compliance? Well, they’re simply video recorded lectures. So, if you’re a deaf person, you can’t hear them (and they’re not closed-captioned), and if you’re a visually-impaired person, you can’t see them, because they don’t have the right color contrast (or something.)

Two employees of Gallaudet University, which is a school for the deaf in DC, filed a complaint with the DOJ saying that Berkeley’s online courses were inaccessible to their hearing-impaired community. And naturally, because the DOJ was filled with Obama administration lunatics at the time (last summer), they determined that YES INDEED – Berkeley was in violation of the ADA. The DOJ told Berkeley they needed to get the online lectures into compliance. So Berkeley had two choices: either spend the money and time it would take (read: lots of both) to bring every online video into compliance with the ADA, or remove them entirely.

If you were in a position of authority at Berkeley, what would you do?

I’ll tell you what I would do. I would tell the DOJ to bite me, and pull the videos. And that’s precisely what Berkeley is doing (although they probably didn’t tell the DOJ to bite them. At least not publicly.)

Let’s just quickly recap. So, because a teeny tiny fraction of the population couldn’t watch/listen to Berkeley’s free video lectures, now NO ONE CAN.

In other words, this is Harrison Bergeron’s world, y’all. And we’re just living in it.

I don’t even wanna KNOW the level of effort and expense it would take to make 20,000 videos (which translates to 43,000 hours) ADA compliant. The complaints listed in the DOJ’s notice to Berkeley included things like lack of captions and insufficient color contrast. What’s next? Are they going to lodge complaints with every library on every campus and insist every single book on every single shelf is available in braille? Are they going to come to our radio station to demand that we somehow make our program available to the deaf community? Will every radio station need to hire real-time transcriptionists? Where does it end?

Look. I’m the mom of a boy with severe cerebral palsy. It’s not like I don’t have sympathy for people with disabilities. It’s that I have COMMON SENSE. And this mentality – of taking away from the majority simply because a couple people can’t participate – is not only ridiculous, it’s dangerous.

Shouldn’t we be grateful and delighted that a university is making its content available to the public at no cost? HOW IS THIS EVEN SOMETHING ANYONE IS MAD ABOUT? I understand that when someone is paying tuition or fees for a course, that course has to be accessible to them. But we are talking about FREE COURSES, you guys. Berkeley was trying to do something good, and they got their hand slapped for it by two deaf people with the help of the DOJ. It’s LUNACY.