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Deafblind UK: Captioning Awareness Week 2020

Did you know it’s Captioning Awareness Week? Deaf advocate and Deafblind UK Outreach Officer Louise Goldsmith found out more…

What is Captioning Awareness Week?

Captioning Awareness Week is spearheaded by the charity StageText, who deliver captioning and live subtitling services to increase accessibility for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals.

Captioning Awareness Week takes place from 9th – 15th November and gives us the chance to celebrate the accessibility that currently exists in the arts sector. The campaign also aims to highlight the increasing need for subtitles for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences. Throughout the week, StageText are hosting a variety of different webinars, regarding accessibility and other interesting topics.

Venues such as theatres, museums and galleries, would usually have lots of events on offer, across England. Although, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these venues are sadly temporarily closed. StageText have decided to continue celebrate digitally this year.

2020’s theme is Armchair Access. Sadly, many of us have had to stay at home and isolate for the majority of the year and turned to watching shows online. StageText’ s campaign focusses on raising awareness of making these online shows accessible for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences at home.

What are captions?

Captions are words that are displayed on a monitor, television, laptop/computer, cinema screen or any other device. The words that are displayed, help individuals follow the audio dialogue of the content they are watching. The NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) further explains, the type of captions there are: ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ captions. ‘Open captions’ cannot be turned off and are always displayed on the screen. On the other hand, ‘closed captions’ can be turned off, depending on the viewer’s personal preferences.

Why are they important?

StageText highlights the importance of making these online events accessible and says that one in six people are at risk of being excluded from these events. The World Health Organisation states, there are 466 million people in the world who have some form of hearing loss, which can vary in different degrees.

Research carried out by OFCOM discovered that 7.5 million people had previously used subtitles to watch television shows, with 6 million of them, not having any form of hearing loss. This goes to show that it is not just D/deaf people alone, who rely on captions, but hearing people also benefit from them.

Also, in 2015, RNID carried out a study on 3751 participants with a hearing loss. Their findings shown that 89% of them were reliant on subtitles. As highlighted by Matinée Multilingual, it is important to establish the different between captions and subtitles. Subtitles are written as a “text alternative” for the audio dialogue, whereas, captions also display any background sound, that appears in the audio, for example, ‘door slams’. The captions provide a more detail for D/deaf viewers, in comparison to subtitles.

UK Fundraising states “nearly one in five UK adults have hearing loss, but less than 1% are fluent in British Sign Language”.

StageText discovered a massive increase in demand for captioned shows during the period of lockdown. In April 2020, they provided a subtitled performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’, which had 12.8 million viewers; 2.5 million of them, were using the subtitles that were provided. With viewers stuck at home during lockdown, this further sparked a huge demand for online performances. RNID (previously known as ‘Action on Hearing Loss’) discovered, 87% of individuals with some form of a hearing loss, “attempted to watch a programme on-demand and found it had no subtitles”.

Captions give a better understanding of audio content and increase accessibility – it is vital that we continue to campaign and fight for their use!

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