Let’s talk about closed captions

Think about the last time you were at the movie theater. Were there closed captions on the screen? Or how about when you were watching a YouTube video or a TikTok, did the creator provide closed captions on their video?

The truth is that people tend to only worry about the things that have a direct impact on them. With that being said, you may not remember or even notice when there are closed captions on the screen. If you have not given much thought to this subject before, there is no reason to be hard on yourself. However, it is important to now recognize that this is an important issue that is often overlooked.

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Ellie Parfitt is a woman who has been profoundly deaf since birth, and she is dedicated to deaf awareness in order to help herself and others who struggle. While discussing her experience at a cinema in her blog, Ellie states, “Going to watch a movie at the theater has always been a ‘luxury’ for me. With my hearing loss, and the lack of subtitled showings, it just wasn’t possible. It also wasn’t fair” (Parfitt). She is one of the many deaf people who are excluded when it comes to movie time showings. Movies with captions are either shown at ridiculous times, or they are not even shown at all.

Considering closed captions and subtitles are very similar, this causes people to forget their differentiating purposes. The main goal for subtitles is to provide text for the dialogue of the video footage, and it is especially used when translating the audio to another language. While closed captions supply text for the conversation just as subtitles do, they also describe background noises and significant parts of the audio. For example, if someone in the video started singing, the text would say (singing). The huge difference is that closed captions are designed under the assumption that the audience cannot hear the audio and it allows them to experience the video. On the other hand, subtitles are meant for audiences that can hear the audio.

What people may not realize is that closed captions for videos have many benefits, and they are not only used by people who are hard of hearing. For example, people can watch videos in quiet places, such as the library, and still be able to understand it because the closed captions are on. Another perk is that closed captions help with clarification and comprehension for dialogue that may be too fast or harder to interpret.

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You could even read this and be thinking about how you are one of those individuals that enjoy having closed captions on when watching something. Personally, once I started turning on closed captions on videos, I never went back. Obviously everybody has their preferences, which is always valid. However, it is extremely ignorant to advocate NOT having subtitles or closed captions on the screen. While some people deem them as an inconvenience, it is even MORE of an inconvenience for individuals with hearing loss to not have the opportunity to watch something due to the lack of captions. At the end of the day, captions do not take up the whole screen. It is still very possible to watch something even when the words are popping up at the bottom, no matter how “annoying” somebody may say it is.

Recognizing that not everybody has the privilege to choose whether they want to use captions is crucial. The next time you go to your local movie theater, you should suggest that they show more movies that provide captions. After all, movie theaters claim that captions on the screen are not very demanded; why not be somebody who makes them one step closer to doing so? Going along with that, if you see a creator on social media not having the option for closed captions on their videos, you could message them and advise that they consider using them. When you are watching a television show and your friend complains about the captions on the screen, make an effort to educate them on their importance. These small and easy steps will bring awareness to this matter. Even if it does not personally affect your life, it impacts somebody else’s.

Parfitt, Published by Ellie. “My Fight to Make Cinemas Deaf-Friendly.” Hearing Like Me, 7 Mar. 2016, https://www.hearinglikeme.com/my-fight-to-make-cinemas-deaf-friendly/.

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