Hearing loss can isolate a person and have a profound impact on their personal lives. Sound gives people a connection to the world and is essential for healthy living. Insufficient access to this auditory information can negatively impact an individual. Closed captioning is critical for people with hearing loss. These captions are brief explanations that accompany an article, illustration, cartoon, or poster. In the world of broadcasting, a closed caption appears on a screen with a decoder to help people with hearing loss enjoy their favorite television programming. As good as captioning is, much work remains.
Captioning With Hearing Aids And Cochlear Implants
Hearing aids and cochlear implants are beneficial devices for those who have trouble hearing. However, to fully access and appreciate audiovisual material, many of these people also rely on captioning. It is such a necessity in fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires captioning for video transcripts by state and local governments. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governs closed captioning. For television programming, the FCC requires the following elements for closed captioning:
Closed captioning must be accurate
Closed captioning must be synchronous
Closed captioning must be complete
Closed captioning requires proper placement
The Problem With Online Video
Unfortunately, laws do not exist that cover the captioning of online video. Although the National Association of the Deaf successfully sued Netflix for the lack of closed captioning on streaming devices, the ruling was not by the Supreme Court and therefore did not establish a national precedent. Platforms for social media such as YouTube and Facebook are unregulated, leaving the enabling of auto-captioning on videos up to the discretion of the video creator. The auto-generated captioning is frequently inaccurate as the video creators must manually edit the material which takes time and is expensive.
Tone and verbal inflection can change a sentence’s meaning which poses a problem for captioning. Captioning is not able to capture sarcasm, context, or word emphasis. It does not capture multiple voices speaking at once which is critical for the understanding of angry protestors or cheering crowds. Some streaming devices have closed captions, but no requisites for the captioning quality.
Regulations Must Change
Government programming and news alert systems have captioning requirements. Accessibility laws exist for television and some online content. However, as our entertainment gradually becomes digital, the regulations for captioning must be transferable, or information will remain lost in translation because the laws for captioning only apply to specific circumstances. Closed captioning provides accessibility for people with hearing loss, and hopefully, it will continue to improve and expand.
What Can You Do?
Speak up. If you are eating out a nice restaurant and notice television without captions, politely request them. If you are a business owner whose establishment features waiting rooms or lounges, make sure the captions are turned on. Like YouTube videos? If you find one without a caption, leave comments, or write emails to request captions. Notify Netflix and Amazon Prime when captions are inaccurate, or the transcription is of poor quality. Finally, if you notice poor captioning with your favorite show, file a complaint with the FCC in the Access for People with Disabilities section of their consumer complaint center.