Throughout my life I have often heard the phrase “this program is available with closed captions” while watching television. But I never really thought to care about what it meant until I had a roommate who was deaf.

Captions are a text version of the dialogue and sounds in a video and are displayed on screen in time with the soundtrack. Having a simple thing like text at the bottom of the television screen was incredibly important for my roommate in accessing a wide range of entertainment and ensuring that he felt included with the rest of our household. Since being exposed to the world of captions, I realised there were a lot of things I didn’t know. So here are 6 things I didn’t know about captioning.


1. Captioning isn’t just for TV and film

I am ashamed to say that for quite some time I had no idea that captions were used in any other forms except for television and film. Captions can be used for social media, company websites, music, theatre, events, in the workplace, at school and university. They provide people with access to information throughout all areas of their life.


2. There are two types of captions

The two main types of captions are open and closed. Open captions, also known as burned-in, baked on or hard-coded, are visible to everyone. Open captions are a permanent feature on a video and are most commonly used for subtitles on foreign language films.

Closed captions gives viewers the option of switching the captions on or off while watching a program. They are the most common form of captioning and can be identified by the [CC] symbol.


3. Captioning requires a lot of skill

A captioner’s job comes with a lot of responsibility. They need to ensure that the captions are readable, comprehensive and accurate, which is not as simple as just typing out the words for a video.

I used to think that all captions were created either by a machine or someone typing extremely fast, copying what was being said. But there are many different captioning methods such as stenocaptioning and respeaking. A lot of skill is required to create quality captions. When machines create captions it’s called Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). But the accuracy of these captions can be extremely inaccurate and look like gibberish.


4. Captions can be turned into transcripts

Live captions can be used to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing (HOH) in the workplace, at university, school, and during events. These live captions can then be turned into a transcript for the person to keep and refer back to whenever they need.

This can be helpful not just for people who are deaf or HOH. Transcripts are great for having a written record of things such as meetings, lectures, and interviews, and can be helpful for teachers who want to track and improve their teaching.


5. It’s for everyone

Captioning isn’t just for people who are deaf or HOH, it’s for everyone. While captioning was originally created to assist people who are deaf or HOH, recently its application has become more widespread to assist people who are learning a new language or have English as a second language. Captions can help improve a person’s literacy skills and help people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or learning difficulties.  Captions are also a great way to view audio and visual content in noisy or public places such as the gym, bars, restaurants, parties and airports. Without captions on the television, I wouldn’t be able to distract myself from the reality of being at the gym.


6. It’s still not widely available

Our world is full of wonderful content through movies, television, YouTube and Facebook. I count myself lucky because I have access to all this content. But I now realise that a lot of this content is not accessible to everyone. This means that people are being excluded from enjoying certain things. Accurate captioning is still not widely available around the world. While many programs have closed captioning available, it doesn’t mean that they are accurate. Captioning is a big step in defeating exclusion and creating a world that is more accessible to everyone.


Written By Gemma Matheson, Sales and Marketing Assistant

Photo of Gemma




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