Captioning helps a wide variety of viewers in need of expanded accessibility, especially the deaf and hard of hearing community, those new to learning the English language, and viewers looking to improve their literacy skills. Browse our Consumer Info pages to learn more about the benefits of captioning.
People With Hearing Disabilities
Did you know that approximately 36 million American adults report some amount of hearing disability, and 2 to 3 of every 1,000 American children are born deaf or hard of hearing?
Without captions, 17% of American adults and millions of children do not have the same accessibility to information as the rest of the population. Captioning translates the spoken word into text, allowing people with hearing loss to enjoy social media videos, television programs, entertainment DVDs, sporting events, and everything in-between.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act provide mandates for closed captioning requirements on various forms of visual media.
Check out the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments website to learn more about how you can expand accessibility to your audience.
Additional information can be found at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
For more information on how you can help to make sure your favorite TV show or event is accessible to everyone, please contact one of these advocacy groups:
- National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
- Hearing Loss Association of America
- Hearing Loss Association of Oregon (formerly SHHHOR)
- Hearing Loss Law & Washington State Communications Access Project
English Language Learners
Approximately 10% of American pre-K through 12th grade students are English Language Learners (ELL). Did you know that ELL students are the fastest growing American population?
Captioned videos help significantly improve grammar, vocabulary, listening skills, word recognition, and reading comprehension of people who are learning English. Captions have quickly become an integral part of ELL classrooms. These benefits are helping to serve the growing community of English language learners.
- Kindler, A.L., “Survey of the States’ Limited English Proficient Students and Available Educational Programs and Services, 2000-2001 Summary Report,” National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs, 2002.
- United States Department of Education. (2006) Secretary Spellings Announces Partnership with States to Improve Accountability for Limited English Proficient Students.
- Ellsworth, T. (1992), October. Integrating subtitled video into your teaching, “English Teaching Forum.”
- Garza, T. (1991). Evaluating the use of captioned video materials in advanced foreign language learning. “Foreign Language Annals, 24(3), “ 239-58.
- Rees, T. (1993). “Closed captions in the classroom.” Unpublished manuscript. Northampton, MA: International Language Institute of Massachusetts.
Did you know that approximately 44 million American adults need significant improvement with their literacy skills and that one in five public schoolchildren has trouble reading?
Scientific studies consistently conclude that closed captioning helps to improve literacy skills of those learning to read. Viewers with below-average reading comprehension and schoolchildren who are learning to read have shown increases in word-recognition abilities after exposure to captioned videos in classrooms.
- National Adult Literacy Survey (1992) NCED, U.S. Department of Education, www.ncld.org
- National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), http://nces.ed.gov. Rogner, B.M. (1987). Adult Literacy: Captioned Videotapes and Word Recognition. The Union Institute, The Graduate School. Cincinnati, Ohio (Sept 1992).
- Rogner, B.M. (1987). Adult Literacy: Captioned Videotapes and Word Recognition. The Union Institute, The Graduate School. Cincinnati, Ohio (Sept 1992). Adler, R., (1985). Using Closed-Captioned Television in the Classroom. New Directions in Reading, Research & Practice, Yearbook of the State of Maryland International Reading Association 11-18.
City of Portland Closed Captioning Ordinance
The City of Portland passed ordinance PCC 23.01.075 on November 18th, 2015, which went into effect on December 18, 2015. This ordinance requires TVs in public places in Portland to have the captions turned on and to be left on. The new Portland ordinance removes the burden of having to request captions; the captions will be on by default.
This measure resulted from advocacy by the group Portland: Turn On The Captions Now! Carol Studenmund, president of LNS Captioning, worked on this project along with Jim House, David Viers and Steven Brown, gentlemen who are leaders in the community of people with hearing disabilities.
Check out the City of Portland’s website about this ordinance: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/69429.
How to turn them on and leave them on:
Or download this pdf
More information: http://captionsonnow.net/
Explore ADA Compliance
Signed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, programs and services provided by state and local governments, goods and services provided by private companies, and in commercial facilities.”
The Department of Justice issued the ADA Standards for Accessible Design in 2010. These standards state that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities.
To ensure compliance or to further research the ADA, check out these sites:
Visit: http://webaim.org/ for WCAG2.0 or Section 508 evaluations.
Visit: http://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/toolkitmain.htm for the ADA Best practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments. See Chapter 3 in particular for information about captioning being “an example of different auxiliary aids and services that may be used to provide effective communication for people with disabilities.”
For direct questions, visit the contact site for the ADA Information Line. TTY compatible:
Section 508 information
What is Section 508 and why do I need to know about it?
Section 508, an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a federal law mandating that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities.
Think about it. How does a person request accommodations to the internet under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Does one call ahead and ask for captions for a video that may be watched in 72 hours? No. With today’s advanced technology and internet speeds, no one wants to wait that long! And to watch it with captions, they should be imbedded and their existence implied, even before clicking the start button.
The federal government set its sights on this issue by adding Section 508 to the US Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If a project uses federal money, it needs to comply with Section 508.
And this applies to streaming video, produced videos, webinars, and other live events on the internet. Many states, counties, and cities incorporate Section 508 into their specific IT policies.
Our favorite resource to ask all kinds of questions about web accessibility for people with disabilities is WebAim. This website has evaluation tools, resources, and information about making the internet accessible to all people who need accommodation to use the internet. Check them out! www.webaim.org.