Most people don’t realise that sign language is a completely different language. I can read text captions but it takes me longer as they are not in my first language. Captions and signing aren’t interchangeable.
Martine has been deaf since birth. She is a mature student, taking online courses. While she can hear some sounds, she does not hear enough to understand speech. She learned to sign as a young child. Sign language is Martine’s first language. As a result, written language can be difficult. She prefers written content to have good structure and headings with minimal jargon so that it’s easier to understand.
Martine can lip read but can only do so effectively when she can see the full face of the person who is speaking. Even then, she can only do it well enough to pick up a few words here and there and can’t rely on lip reading alone to understand content.
The university where Martine studies provides sign language interpreters and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART); however, this captioning is not always present on video and other media content. The university is now working to caption all content across their curriculum, however it is a lengthy process. As more and more content is captioned, Martine is finding it easier to complete her studies remotely.
Martine spends a lot of her free time watching streamed content on video streaming services. The improvement in captioning of these services in recent years has meant she is able to watch more programmes than she was before. She can have difficulty when captions aren’t clearly color coded to show who is speaking. Auto-captioning can be useful for her but it can also cause her problems if it’s available but incorrect.
- Inaccurate captions
- Problem: “I love that my classes are recorded and available online but sometimes the captions don’t convey the exact words that the instructor is saying, especially in some of my more technical classes.”
- Works well: “When the captioner gets to know the material so they don’t miss words or make mistakes.”
- Design of captions
- Problem: “When watching movies online, the captions often cover parts of the video. Sometimes I miss things in the video and it makes the captions hard to read depending on the background.”
- Works well: “Captions appear at the bottom of the screen but I can also move them if necessary. They are shown against a solid color background that offers good contrast between the captions and background.”
- Good camera position for speaker
- Problem: “Some classes record the instructor speaking. This is great because I am good at lip reading but the camera is often too far away.”
- Works well: “The camera is positioned to focus in on the instructor’s face.”
- No alternative for audio
- Problem: “When watching a news program online, there isn’t an option for me to understand what the speaker is saying.”
- Works well: “Provide audio alternatives such as sign language, captions or transcript. If there is a speaker in camera, focus in on the speaker.”
Assistive technologies and adaptive strategies used
Related WAI resources
- Video: Video Captions
- Tip: Create transcripts and captions for multimedia
- Tip: Include image and media alternatives in your design
- Tip: Provide controls for content that starts automatically
- Tip: Write code that adapts to the user’s technology
- Check: Multimedia (video, audio) alternatives
- Text alternatives for non-text content (Perceivable)
- Captions and other alternatives for multimedia (Perceivable)
- Content is easier to see and hear (Perceivable)
- Content is readable and understandable (Understandable)
- Success Criteria relating to “captions”