What is Unclear About Captioning?

Last updated: February 16, 2020

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Does your business know about the need for captioning? This recent article might be a wake-up call for people in the United States: "Who is Required to Close-Caption?"

With only a few exceptions, all programming for broadcast in the United States must be closed captioned.

Fortunately, the article includes the "FCC Guide Closed Captioning on Television". This is also available as a Closed Captioning Guide (pdf).

If you make instructional videos, do you want to leave out the potential audience segment that is deaf or hard-of-hearing? Read "No Caption On Your Video? I Can’t Get Your Content!": no captions means you lose a visitor or client.

For one source of information about captioning, we suggest you turn to Twitter and follow the stream of tweets from the people on our Twitter list for topics about deafness, hearing impairments, and captioning. They are the source for much of the information in this article.

There is so much catching up to do with captioning, so once again, we point you to these other great resources for captioning:

  • Stanford Captioning
  • Described and Captioned Media Program (DMCP) Captioning Key for educational media
    Description (also called “audio description” or “video description”) is the verbal depiction of key visual elements in media and live productions.
    Captioning is the process of converting the audio content of a television broadcast, webcast, film, video, CD-ROM, DVD, live event, and other productions into text and displaying the text on a screen or monitor. Captions not only display words as the textual equivalent of spoken dialogue or narration, but they also include speaker identification, sound effects, and music description.
  • Resources from Bill Creswell, the captioning-the-internet-one-video-at-a-time guy"

In fact, watch Bill Creswell's video (no sound is needed!) to get the message:

Quick note for blind or low-vision readers. Bill Creswell couldn't get his microphone to work when making this video. Then he realized that his technical difficulty demonstrated the problem hearing-impaired people have with videos. It's as though someone forgot to turn on their microphone!

I am not deaf and I am not hard-of-hearing. So why do I write this article?

  • Because I believe technical communicators are perfectly positioned to introduce and include concepts like captioning into businesses
  • Because it is a part of any decent, sensible content strategy
  • Because I find subtitles and captions on television quite handy when I want to catch a phrase that was garbled by the actor's poor articulation
  • Because I believe it is a natural service to offer for any business
  • Because I got my socks knocked off when I read Oliver Sacks' Seeing Voices and began to view deafness as a culture, not a disability
  • Because it is a matter of human decency
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