Have you ever been watching TV or a movie and noticed that the captions don't quite match the words? For many of us, this is an ongoing and incredibly frustrating part of captioned content.
Paraphrasing, spelling errors, or complete misinterpretations can dramatically effect the viewing experience for audiences. When they're accurate, captions are an incredibly powerful device which creates accessibility. When they're inaccurate, they create a confusing and frustrating mess which leaves viewers feeling neglected and ignored.
Recently, Karamo Brown from Netflix's hugely popular reboot of Queer Eye became a champion for quality captions. This came in response to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing viewers who took to Twitter to broadcast their distaste with Netflix's inaccurate captions for Queer Eye among other programs. Fans highlighted that the captions were censoring, misinterpreting, and simplifying the verbatim audio. This meant that deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers were missing out on essential content. It's simple - when your captions don't match the audio, you change the content and exclude people from enjoying it in the same way as others. This is especially true for shows like Queer Eye, where the colloquialisms and vernacular used by the stars is a characterising feature of their personalities. In response to this outcry, Netflix have promised to improve their captions.
We’ve heard about the caption issues on the service, specifically for @QueerEye. After looking into it, there's lots of dialogue missing from the Fab 5 that shouldn't be. We're fixing it. In some cases, we do bleep incidental profanity from our unscripted series.— Netflix CS (@Netflixhelps) June 28, 2018
Karamo is an outspoken advocate for accessibility. In the past, he's Tweeted about the small changes that we can make on a daily basis to help promote accessibility. Actions like this are needed to incite cultural change and drive accessibility within society.
#DearFriends, as a culture I’ve noticed we often don’t know how we can support ppl w/ disabilities. So I’m committing to making small changes in my life. U will now see my videos captioned for my deaf/ Hard-of-Hearing friends. I would love for u to post other ways we can support. pic.twitter.com/zHBRf69p8S— Karamo Brown (@KaramoBrown) April 16, 2018
The #NoMoreCraptions Campaign
Karamo is not alone in his plight for caption accuracy. In 2016, Deaf Awareness YouTuber Rikki Poynter launched her #NoMoreCraptions campaign to raise awareness about accuracy in captions.
Why we need accurate captions
1. Changes the experience
When the captions do not match the audio, it changes the viewing experience for audiences. Simplified text versions of dialogue, missing dialogue, and poorly timed captions can significantly affect the viewing experience for audiences who rely on captions to enjoy content.
Caption inaccuracies can lead to misinformation among audiences. As seen for Queer Eye, the colloquialisms and vernacular used by the cast are essential to understanding their characters in the show. Removing, simplifying, or mistyping parts of the dialogue meant that audiences were missing out on key information which provided a greater amount of context and understanding of the characters.
3. Content disparity
It's important for both hearing and Hard-of-Hearing audiences to have access to the same content. When captions are inaccurate, it means that two different stories being communicated to audiences - one for those who are hearing, and another for those who are Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing.
4. Perpetuates a false narrative
Simplifying captions perpetuates a narrative that people with disabilities require their content to be simplified. Assumptions like these fuel an unfair and unnecessary divide between hearing and non-hearing members of the public. Simplified captions are different to Simple Text. Simple Text removes the colloquialisms and additional vocabulary from casual dialogue to deliver a product which only includes the necessary information. This is a useful tool for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
An ongoing issue
The actions of Karamo and those like him are a great step forward - we need more people to champion accessibility awareness and use their platform to promote the creation of an inclusive and accessible world. This being said, we still have a long way to go. In the past, captions have been perceived as being a luxury - an unnecessary addition to content. Today, we know this to be untrue. Although captions are appearing in more and more places, it's essential that they are an accurate representation of the content to which it corresponds.