UK charity Action on Hearing Loss estimates that there are more than 11 million (about 1 in 6) people with some degree of hearing loss or deafness in the UK.
Since 1911 it has been fighting for better support and legal rights for those losing their hearing or who have completely lost their hearing, and for improved access to everyday services.
Its latest campaign, Subtitle It! launched in June 2015 and caught our eye. As transcribers of subtitles, we are aware just how many programmes or online video content have no subtitles or very poor autofill captions which are often non-sensical when compared to the actual script.
Through modern programming, we now have access to television programmes at all hours of the day. There is no legal requirement for broadcasters to provide subtitles and often you’ll find their on-demand selection lacks any subtitling at all.
Since the campaign launch, 3000 people have signed up to support the campaign. Government MPs tried to push a bill through the House of Commons to make subtitles a legal requirement, and one of the major broadcasters, Sky, committed to increasing its subtitled content. It was hoped that more broadcasters would then follow.
The bill wasn’t passed. Further campaigning was required. Action on Hearing Loss launched a survey called Progress on Pause, designed to show the level of exclusion that hard of hearing people face. The results were pretty clear in that 87% of those with a hearing impairment who completed the survey relied on subtitles to understand content.
BT’s on Demand TV
The most recent announcement is that another broadcaster, BT has launched a project to improve the quantity of subtitled content on its platform and are looking for participants to trial their new service in August. Read more about it here.
But it’s not just those with hard of hearing that will benefit from this campaign. With a large majority of viewers watching more content on their mobile phone or tablet, many of us are already reliant on subtitles to access content. It’s clear from viewing habits of the majority that the demand for subtitles has never been higher.
To support the campaign yourselves, please follow Action on Hearing Loss and keep up with the latest news.
Australia: Disability Commissioner Alastair McEwin warns decision not to transcribe some news and current affairs programs – and save $210,000 – is a ‘backward step’ for accessibility.