Hearing Loss: Where Are The Captions?

We walked into the large auditorium and took our seats — positioning ourselves so I would have a good view of the podium in case I needed to lip read the speaker. As the program began, my eyes instinctively looked around for the captions. But there weren’t any. There were four large screens, all projecting the speaker and later a video he was playing, but not one displayed captions. I was disappointed, especially since one of the main topics of the talk was the importance of diversity and inclusion. Maybe they needed to practice what they preached.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

Diversity and inclusion is a popular talking point at corporations, government entities and institutes of higher learning, which I think is wonderful. I believe we all do better work when surrounded by people with a diversity of skills, experiences and backgrounds.

But, most of the discussion seems to focus on diversity of race, religion, sexual orientation and the like. These are all important aspects, but why is the concept less often extended to include disability? And particularly hearing loss?

The day after the presentation, my experience continued to bother me, but I knew nothing would change for the next meeting if I did not make my voice heard. So when the survey email arrived soliciting feedback on the event, I filled it out, asking the organizers to consider providing open captions at the next session. “It would be a perfect way for the organization to demonstrate its commitment to honoring diversity and providing inclusion,” I explained.

I went on to say that captions not only help people with hearing loss, but also individuals for whom English is not a first language. Even my husband, who falls into neither of those categories, always finds captioning helpful whenever it is available.

The more we advocate for ourselves, the more likely it is that things will change so I decided to go a step further. I sent emails to the organizers and others I knew at the institution that hosted the event. I was respectful and factual, but also to the point. Talking about diversity and inclusion is not enough. Action is required.

I am excited to say I got a response a few days later. They were excited by the suggestion and looking into the cost. I plan to follow up in a few weeks. I wonder if the next event will be captioned…

Readers, how do you advocate for inclusion for people with hearing loss?

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23 thoughts on “Hearing Loss: Where Are The Captions?

  1. I think one reason captions are so hard to supply is because of the apparent cost to companies. I think that is a huge prohibitive factor.


  2. I like to refer to this kind of advocacy as ‘soft advocacy’ since it’s more about education than demanding one’s rights. Few people have ever experienced captioning in a setting like this. The huge majority who needs communication access in this manner don’t know this is even a possibility. Cost is another factor at play, as you pointed out. Cost also relates to a supply and demand issue. Until this service by providers becomes more common, the small number of people (and businesses) who provide this type of captioning service will remain small and extremely costly. We need to encourage more educational institutions to offer training in this field so more providers are available. There is a huge opportunity out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. this post really resonated for me. the church I used to attend has a really bad sound system (lots of distortion) which made it had for me to feel included. I tried to lobby for improvement, but found that there evidently is not enough money in the budget to cater to this small group of us who have trouble hearing. I do understand that. When money is tight, the needs of children must come first. I recently had the opportunity to explain to one of the trustees why I no longer attend services and got a sympathetic response. But money is money…


    • My experience has been that places of worship truly want to be inclusive and welcoming for everyone. It’s likely there are more than just a handful of folks who are impacted. Kudos to you for speaking up! Bringing the issue to their attention is the first step! Who knows, often funds can be found for special projects like this!

      Locally, one place of worship, uses a large screen behind the pulpit and projects an outline of sorts that follows along with the service. Though, it’s not word for word, the outline helps you follow along and garner the gist of the message. This particular church is looped and also has a portable FM system which helps improve the clarity of sound that’s delivered by the sound system. Yes, these systems can be costly, but the ongoing expense and upkeep are minimum. You can read more about those systems here:

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Recently my audiologist changed locale and decor. A tv was added to the waiting room. I noticed a couple of times while picking up supplies for my hearing aids that the closed captioning was not turned on. I pointed it out to the receptionist/technician, explained why it was important to have it on all the time, turned the closed captioning on for her, and showed her how to do it. However, I noticed on a subsequent drop in that cc was not on. I had an audiological appointment for new hearing aids and mentioned it to my audiologist. She agreed with me. I went back a day later and the closed captioning was on. I’m going back tomorrow to get my new hearing aids and will check the status of the tv’s cc. I believe it is important for all of us who are affected by hearing loss ourselves to advocate for closed captioning so that others will understand why it is critical for us to have acccess to it in the public forum.


  5. Just happens I’m heading out this morning to join a friend to meet with the board of a senior center to talk about hearing loss and accessibility! When I go to these meetings, I feel like I’m both educating and advocating. Unfortunately,we must still ask. Access and advocacy go hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other.


  6. My girlfriend works for Tesla and when we watched the livestream unveiling of the new Model 3 she was shocked that it wasn’t captioned.
    “Live streams never are,” I told her, “Even Apple doesn’t caption live streams, though they often add them to the saved video later.”
    “Well, Tesla brags about being better than everyone else.”
    And she wrote some emails suggesting they caption the live stream.

    The next time there was one, sure enough, live captions too. I was super impressed.

    Remote CART isn’t as expensive or difficult to set up as it used to be.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Captioning is great! However the cost isn’t ! Cost is always a factor if it will be available and if the venue can afford to offer it . Churches have limited funding especially if they are small . My church luckily offers captioning for one Sunday service because the captioner donates her time and is not paid .


  8. I attend a number of Smithsonian Associates presentations, usually held at the Ripley Center. I request and always receive a portable receiver and attached earphones prior to the presentation. The sound is transmitted directly from the microphone at the podium. I find the system to be excellent, and understand almost 100% — I remove my hearing aids before using the earphones.

    I agree with the other commenters that we’re not yet in the age where live captioning can be practical and reasonably priced — but so long as a speaker remains, more or less, at the podium, we should insist at least on the availability of portable receivers and earphones in all public venues where presentations are made.

    At the Arena Stage and Signature Stage, all plays have a certain number of open caption performances, where the dialogue has already been entered into a computer, and a staff member projects the words of the play as they’re spoken on a screen in a certain section where the audience sits. It works very well.


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