People with hearing loss LOVE captions! They help us combat hearing loss exhaustion by reducing listening effort, help us fill in words that we miss during a speech or when watching a movie, and give us confidence that we can participate more fully in a number of different listening situations. It turns out we are not alone.
A recent visit to Verizon Media’s Accessibility lab taught me that everyone loves captions, even people without hearing loss! I had always suspected as much as I watched my husband with typical hearing using the captions at Broadway shows and other events over the years, but now there is proof.
80% of People Who Use Captions Are Not Hard of Hearing
Recent research by Verizon Media and Publicis Media showed that video viewing is changing, with more consumers watching videos on-the-go and in shared spaces. This is causing more people to embrace captioning than ever before. In fact, 80% of people who use captions do not have hearing loss. Half of those surveyed said they like captions because they often watch videos with the sound off.
Verizon Media’s accessibility team shared the data with a group of us from HLAA’s NYC chapter a few weeks ago. Interestingly, it came from a study that was conducted by their advertising technology department. This tells me that captions are going mainstream, which is good news for people with hearing loss.
More support for widespread captioning comes from a 2018 TEDx talk by Svetlana Kouznetsova where she reports that captioning videos increase viewership by 40% and that 90% of captioned videos are watched to completion. Captioned videos reach a larger audience because they make watching possible in a wider variety of settings. Captions also make it easier to understand complicated or confusing content and improve intelligibility if the speaker has a strong accent.
Accessibility Is Becoming A Priority
More companies are making accessibility a priority. Verizon Media (owner of Yahoo!, AOL, and Huffington Post) now boasts 100% captioning of their original content as well as eight hours of live financial news each weekday on Yahoo! Finance. This year, Google launched numerous accessibility products including Live Transcribe, a speech to text app for people with hearing loss. Microsoft recently added auto-captioning to Skype. With the advent of OTC hearing aids, the list of companies focused on providing hearing loss solutions will only grow.
Products developed for a mainstream audience are also finding an eager market in the hearing loss community. Tunity, a smartphone app that lets you listen to a current TV broadcast on your smart phone when the TV is muted, was designed for use by hearing people in loud bars, but it also works well for people with hearing loss. Another such product is Otter, a speech to text app that was created for transcribing business meetings, but can be used by people with hearing loss for real-time captioning. 600 minutes of free transcription are allowed per month.
Involving the hearing loss community in these efforts is key to creating solutions that work well for people with hearing loss, as well as a mainstream audience. Only someone with hearing loss can attest that poorly synced captions are often worse than no captions at all, as the disconnect between what we hear, the lip movements and what we are reading creates more confusion than assistance.
I am glad to see companies reaching out to the hearing loss community for feedback on their accessibility efforts. Meetings like the one at Verizon Media and the trusted tester groups at Google that seek feedback from consumers on new products in the design stage are great steps towards improving accessibility for everyone. When implemented well, disability can be a design opportunity.
Readers, do you love captions?