Accessibility for All: Even Hearing People Need Closed Captions
If video wasn’t important before, it certainly is now. More than ever people are releasing videos that typically range from 5 seconds to 4 minutes long depending on the platform (i.e. YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). And many flock to these videos, watching them for an average of 1–4 hours a day alone. Yet there are still many videos that are not captioned.
Captions have been around since the early 1970s, when PBS first aired The French Chef with words displayed on line 21 of TV screens. And in 1973 The Captioned ABC News was first aired and continued to air for the next ten years. Both were an overwhelming success in the Deaf world. It was a huge win, a milestone that continues to be expanded upon in the 21st century.
What was originally for those who are deaf or hard of hearing has largely benefited the rest of the population. Captions are used among people who have disorders like ADHD and APD (Audio Processing Disorder), for those who multi-task, for those who are parents and/or have loud backgrounds, children and adults that are learning another language — the list is infinite.
The reality is that only 5% of the world are deaf or hard of hearing and 80% of video consumers don’t have hearing issues. 92% of videos are watched on silent. That’s a lot of stats, so just… Let that sink in.
Still, many brands and individuals who create these videos skip out on captions altogether. It’s possible that the majority don’t even know about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (I certainly didn’t until I initially began writing this) which covers the guidelines for making web content more accessible to those with a disability of any kind.
It’s important to caption these videos because often the viewers don’t have as much context as the video makers do. Sound has gotten better through the advancements in technology yet hearing audio from an artificial source does not sound the same as it does in the 3D world. Especially if there’s a lot of screaming and white noise from the whiplash the camera gets sentenced to. A video clip is called a video clip for a reason — because the viewers only get to see a tiny moment in the big event. Not to mention that the subjects may be hidden from view. Those who rely their lip-reading abilities have the opportunity of understanding the video on their own ripped away from them.
Not being able to see the subject isn’t the only issue with video. It’s possible that when a subject is present even hearing viewers may struggle to understand them because of their accents. Maybe they’re speaking softly or mumbling. Maybe they’re fast talkers. Or perhaps the background music is too loud and distracting. Any sound can be distracting.
Now, there are a lot of videos where there is an auditory component, but there are also videos out there created with the visual languages of the world. It’s just as important for sign language users to caption their videos as well because just like everyone else they deserve to be paid attention, too. Whether it’s something funny or philosophical, etc., we all put out videos to get a message across. Why publish it if no one can understand your message? The point of accessibility is to reach as many people as possible.
“So, how can I start captioning my videos?”
Depending on the platform there are two types of captions you can choose from: 1. Close Captions (CC) are captions that you can toggle on and off. You’ll see this on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu as well as Facebook and YouTube; 2. Open Captions (OC) are captions that are “burned” onto the video for all to see. A lot of these videos can be found on Instagram, LinkedIn and, Tik Tok. Unfortunately, CC is not available across all social media platforms so you may be forced to go with OC. There is a ton of resources for how to create captions online, but to help you get started here is a video for computer editors and a video for phone editors.
So, please caption your videos from here on out because often accessibility isn’t just for those with disabilities, it’s for all.