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Subtitles, transcripts... should we bother?

2015-01-26

Short answer.

The shortest answer possible is: yes!

Now we’re going to talk about why it’s important, what you can do to help as a content creator, and what you can do to help as someone who doesn’t create content.

Do you want to spread your content?

The idea is simple: if your content has subtitles, more people can view it, like it, share it… You name it!

Note: I’m talking about video/watching but this is valid for podcasts/listening as well as any other content that is relevant for this. I’m talking about subtitles but it also works with transcripts.

I don’t really buy into the whole “and see, it’s not even just for Deaf and hard of hearing people, it also benefits hearing people” because it can easily sound like it needs to benefit hearing people to be worth it.

Let’s be clear: even if it was only for Deaf and hard of hearing people, it would be worth it. More than that: even if it was for ONE Deaf or hard of hearing person, it would be worth it.

There’s no reason why even one single person should be kept from watching “the video everyone is talking about” or even “that super obscure video no one is talking about” (and everything in between) just because no one bothered to make subtitles.

That said… Having subtitles has MANY advantages besides reaching your Deaf and hard of hearing audience. To name but a few:

1) Having subtitles means people who have auditory processing disorder can watch.

2) Having subtitles means people who want to watch the video in a less than ideal moment can do so (say during an endless meeting, while holding a sleeping baby, while next to a partner who’s already asleep, etc).

3) Having subtitles means people who are not yet fluent in the language you use in your video can watch. It took me a very long time to let go of subtitles because I really struggled to understand spoken English. For about 4 years I never watched anything without subtitles. Even now, I use them anytime they are available because it’s a lot less tiring for me.

4) Having subtitles means that other people can translate your content into other languages much more easily, as the initial transcript is already there.

Okay, I want to do it. I create content. What should I do?

Great decision!

Let other people help!

When I talk about this, some people tell me that it takes too much time. Lack of time still doesn’t make it okay to exclude others but you’re not sure what to do to sort this out.

Enter the wonderful website Amara! Once you have created an account, you can enable Amara crowd subtitles on your YouTube channel. It means other people will not only be able to create subtitles for your content, but also provide subtitles in other languages. And you can make use of it yourself!

If you already have a transcript and your video is in a spoken language, you can even let YouTube match your captions to your video automatically.

Amara doesn't only work for YouTube. Have a look at the website and make sure it's possible for people to use Amara to create captions for your content. Also, make sure they can reach you if needed.

Spread the word!

Glide (a video texting service) has launched a campaign last month to encourage YouTube channels to provide captions for their videos. Their video has been seen around 19,000 times as of today.

They also used the hashtag #withcaptions on Twitter.

Two weeks after the beginning of the campagne, Tyler Oakley created a video called “Hear me out”, in which he encouraged YouTube content creators to put captions on their videos. He did this after seeing Rikki Poynter’s video in which she talks about the lack of accessibility on YouTube. Her video was seen around 29,000 times.

Now Tyler’s video, which you can see below… attracted 1,336,490 views. It’s also been translated in a huge amount of languages. As in, over 50 languages with non-automatic subtitles.

The fact is: if you create content, you have an influence! Maybe not as much as Tyler, but you do. The hashtag #HearMeOut will show you how much there is going on at the minute, as well as the twitter accounts CaptionAction2 and Subtitle Youtube.

I don't create content but I still want to help.

Make subtitles and transcripts! (Also valid for content creators of course.)

I’ve talked about Amara above. The software is really easy to use and you can get going either immediately or after watching around 3 minutes' worth of tutorials. Pretty great, huh?

If a content creator has not synced their account with Amara, you can still create subtitles. You will have to use the Amara embedder to share them.

It works for Vimeo, Youtube, mp3, mp4, WebM, flv, ogg and others so it doesn't have to be a video! Plus you can always do a good ol' transcript if there is no video to go with the content.

Say “well done” to content creators who provide subtitles.

As I said, I do use subtitles quite a lot in my daily life but I would do this even if I didn’t. If you notice that someone is making subtitles for their content, letting other people make subtitles and trying to make what they do more accessible, tell them! It may be the little thing that helps them to keep going.

Accessibility, YAY!

If you need any more convincing, have a look at Samuel Dore’s article, in which he talks about the frustrations of being a Deaf cinephile… Do you really want your content to be causing frustration to people?

Subtitles and transcripts are easy ways to make your content accessible. It takes a bit of time, but it’s not something that is overly complicated or technical to implement. Go on, start today!

Tags: Deaf, accessibility, how to