The proven benefits of real-time captioning should be available to all

Hearing Health & Technology Matters
March 27, 2013

By Lauren E. Storck

Lauren Storck

Lauren Storck

A survey conducted recently by the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC) revealed that the benefits of real-time captioning for persons with hearing loss are both diverse and important. Responses from the 220 survey participants also underscored the need to make real-time captioning more widely available globally.

CCAC is an international non-profit organization that advocates for captioning. The basic question that our survey asked was how does using real-time captioning for an event (work, school, conference, lecture, etc.) “change your experience of that event? How does it make you think or feel?”

The survey then listed a number of possible responses (see Table 1) and asked respondents to check all those that applied. In doing this, the survey was designed to offer people a simple and structured way to express how important real-time captioning is for them. 



The summary of responses shown in Table 1 below clearly illustrates that the value of captioning extends far beyond simply enabling people to understand what is said at an event.

Survey box final enlarged


These results argue forcibly for the value of captioning beyond mere comprehension. Communication via captioning provides significantly deeper human benefits to people for whom hearing loss or deafness are part of their life. It allows hearing, listening, thinking, and being with others. Captioning captures the words, but also much more. It encourages self-respect and shared participation and enjoyment.

Captioning also facilitates mutual human exchange, which is part of everyday life and builds good relationships, not only between service providers and people who use captioning, but also among everyone at an event.



As Table 1 shows, almost everyone who replied to the survey question about how real-time captioning affected their experience of an event said that it allowed them to be “included,” “able to think and participate without straining to hear or lip-read,” and “able to enjoy the event.” These were the three most frequently cited benefits of captioning.

Other replies selected by more than half the respondents were “happy,” “valued as a person,” “respected,” “satisfied,” andmore relaxed.” These too are major benefits of captioning inclusion.

Even the feeling least often selected, “alive,” was one that 27% said they experienced. Nearly 50% of respondents selected “energized” as a benefit of real-time captioning.



The original comments that many respondents wrote added richness to the survey’s findings. An analysis of their words reveals that the availability of captioning made a great many of them feel “equal” and “empowered.” Their comments identify benefits of captioning that were not mentioned in the main question on the survey.

People are almost shouting in several of the comments about the need for real-time captioning, e.g., that it restores “belonging” for them, an essential human experience for everyone. In group dynamic terms, we all benefit from “groups of belonging” to realize our own individual potential and to have meaningful relationships with others. The feeling of belonging is built upon the foundation of good communications.

Here is a sampling of the comments from respondents about their experiences at events where Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) or some other type of real-time captioning is provided.

“I BELONG! I am no longer an outcast because I can’t hear what is going on.”

“Finally accepted as an equal. Noticed as opposed to ignored or pitied. Able to comment to other participants after the event or presentation. Welcome to provide an opinion from a different perspective.”

“I feel myself relax when I see that there is CART at an event. I know that I have a resource that will enable me to understand what’s going on and I won’t miss anything. It’s a real blessing!”

“Freedom to choose the events you are passionate about rather than only those that are accessible.”

“I used to stay home rather than pretend to be involved in an event or take a course or seminar. With CART, I can attend, understand, and contribute to a discussion with less fear that I’ve missed a crucial point or even have the topic confused. It gives me more confidence that I’m understanding new information.”

“I know that the people who planned the meeting want me to attend & have provided access to help me participate!

“Very simply CART allows me to be part of an event on the same level as everyone else who is present. It provides equality. It allows others to benefit from my input, knowledge, expertise, or point of view.”

“A huge energy-saver, confidence builder, and angst reducer.”

“I feel like I matter and I can make a contribution. I also get the information in an unfiltered manner, not filtered by the interpreter. I feel empowered.”



The CCAC survey results add further evidence of the importance of real-time captioning. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are not enough qualified providers in the U.S. and Canada, let alone in countries around the world that are just beginning to serve their large populations with hearing loss and deafness in new ways.It should be the norm that real-time captioning is provided at public events, and many private events as well. It should not be there only by special request. In the CCAC we outline “ten categories of life” in which captioning is needed but still lacking. These categories range from conferences to media to the Internet, and from education to health care and beyond.

What can you do to increase the availability of real-time captioning? We at CCAC suggest the following:

  1. Tell your government and civic leaders the results of this survey and open a conversation. Continue it until progress is made.
  2. Fight against excuses such as lack of funds or ignorance about equal rights. Captioning is our language.
  3. Use social media to communicate, and be sure to take your discussions into action for captioning inclusion.
  4. CCAC is an open and welcoming community. Join us and use CCAC as a “hub” and a “supportive and mentoring community.” Members discuss these needs online and share new information every day.
  5. The more actions we take and the more collaborations we form, the more often captioning will be included.


Lauren E. Storck, PhD, is President of the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC). She created CCAC in late 2009 to help meet the constant need for new advocates and to fill the many gaps in access to captioning that exist in North America and beyond.  The non-profit organization has about 750 members whose advocacy efforts are focused solely on captioning. CCAC invites new members and new collaborations.

Before founding CCAC, Dr. Storck was on the Clinical Faculty in Psychology at Harvard Medical School from 1987 to 2005, where her special interests included group dynamics, international communications, women’s health and social issues. Her experience there and her post-doctoral study in social gerontology informed her own journey of becoming deafened about 12 years ago. 

  1. I’m curious about where ASL rank in all of this. Is the assumption that ASL is what is usually provided and CART is superior?

  2. Hi Jenny and all reading,
    The article is about the benefits of captioning. CART is not superior. ASL is not superior. It’s not a comparison study at all.

    The article and survey illustrate why more attention and resources need to be invested in captioning.

    Captioning serves so many millions who are deaf, deafened, and have a a hearing loss, for many reasons. It also serves many others with other benefits (e.g. learning to read, language translation, ready transcript for record-keeping, for search engine optimization).

    Most of the almost 50 million people in the USA alone who are deaf, deafened, or have a hearing loss do not use sign language. They are oral. Yet many times they are told to use sign language or offered sign language instead of the captioning they need.

    Deaf citizens who use sign language, their important language, use captioning in many areas also. Best example is probably movies, and now also, videos on the Internet where so many of us are excluded if there is not captioning, and quality captioning too.

    CART – real time captioning – is the written language many need. It’s our language – we use English in the USA and Canada – and real time captioning is vital for our participation. For those who use ASL, that is vital of course.

    Thanks for your interest in captioning and the survey.

  3. I’m curious what the responses would be from non-deaf/hard-of-hearing hearing attendees at an event where CART/Captioning are included. I’ve heard that CART/Captioning benefits them as well, and I think it would make an argument for including CART/Captioning at all events for the benefit of everyone.

    1. Thanks for this question, and it’s timely. Speaking about CART specifically (real time captioning on site for any meeting, conference, public event, school classroom, etc.), one benefit is that it provides a ready transcript for all.

      Real time captioning also allows participation for all when there are speakers whose voices do not carry well even with a microphone, have accents, or are interrupted by noises in or outside the room.

      In discussions, for questions and answers, it’s handy to be able to go back to earlier text that can be found on the screen, real time.

      We’ll mention theater captioning here – while not exactly CART, it’s real time and it serves many in the audience to be sure.

      For captioning inclusion universally, the CCAC mission, and now going beyond only CART, there are a few advocates who claim that hearing people do not want captioning inclusion. There are a few who complain to cinema managers we have been told. Yes, a few will not want captioning.

      However, we believe that most hearing people learn to accept it when they understand the reasons for captioning inclusion, and many do use it well. If they took our survey, we’d welcome the replies.

      There are regular reports from captioning providers and among we “consumers” that people are very curious if they have been at a public event where there is “real time captioning.” They approach the captioning provider to ask a bunch of good questions. They often say clearly that it was actually helpful to them too!

      We advocate for the CCAC mission – inclusion of quality captioning universally – because in most regions and countries, there are many visitors and newer residents whose first language is not the language of the country. Captioning is an enormous benefit (e.g. many can read English to participate before fluency in listening and speaking).

      There are other human differences that benefit from inclusion of captioning – from other auditory differences (outside of hearing loss and deafness) to people of all ages with variations on how they pay attention or use language.

      Hearing loss still carries such stigma among some groups that many are shy to talk about it, and may not realize what they are missing (until they have captioning).

      The CCAC organization has created a new service to expand education about this. We invite all to see, and use it to ask for CART or captioning for any event. Timely planning is advised.


  4. The need for communication access is so accute and so necessary to our lives that the ability to discuss it here brings a surge of hopefulness. Without dismissing the also necessary and helpful provision of interpreting, all of us who rely on others to provide communication ‘bridges’ for inclusion should rally behind this effort for universal captioning. There is strength in numbers!

  5. I use captioning, even when looping is available. I am a visual learner for one thing. Secondly, I read captions for so long before I received cochlear implants, it is the automatic thing for me to do. I like the loop system and can hear while using my telecoil settings, but I prefer captioning with it.

    1. This is a reply to Ann and Roselle and all reading of course. It’s encouraging for yours truly to read your comments also! Much appreciated.

      As Ann says, many who use looping (gathering good interest and being installed in many places) tell us all the time that captioning is also needed and used by them in many group conversations and events.

      Captioning is so useful and convenient when there, for filling in the gaps of words missed, for places where the sound of speech is magnified and strong, yet not clear enough for their hearing loss, or where looping is not used.

      Hearing aids with T settings or an extra device supplied by the venue is needed for looping, whereas captioning serves all who may not use hearing aids at all (both pre-hearing loss persons and deaf persons who are fluent in English for examples).

      As Roselle says, if we can continue to find new ways to communicate, there is hope. What’s more important for life than human communication? Communication is the essence of relationships, it leads to meaningful contributions everyone can make to society, and human exchange for arts, science, medicine, and so much more . As Michael says in the CCAC film, social interaction is what most of us crave and deserve.

      (Link for CCAC film captioned in several languages by CCAC volunteers from

  6. Very well written article, supporting so many senior citizens/baby boomers who want and need so much information captioned or CARTed (a form of realtime captioning) in greater detail as they approach retirement age. Theatre, athletic events, community and civic forums, support groups and religious institutions need to use the power of realtime captioning to maintain their audience and offer guidance for the future. Thanks, Lauren, for your continued support and leadership of the CCAC.

  7. Great article, and some great comments! I have definitely noticed the difference captioning makes for my son, helping him really “get” jokes he would miss without captioning.

    There have been many times I’ve wished for captioning as a hearing person – for example I recently watched a parenting video that had interviews with cute little kids with cute-but-incomprehensible pronunciation of some of the words. I also remember a girl I went to high school with, for whom English was a second language. Her first language was Mandarin, and she had great difficulty hearing the difference between “L” sounds and “R” sounds. She did really well in physics until they started discussing “reflection” and “refraction.” The lectures were almost incomprehensible to her. If she had had access to captioning in the classroom it would have been a tremendous benefit!

    1. Great to read your comments here Patti and Jennifer.

      So many “hearing” people will refer to captioning when it’s available – as you describe. Our mission is to make it much more available!

      Patti, we value our older citizens – and boomers! They have contributed so much over time to our societies. When life changes with hearing loss, it’s not a great deal of fun, unless new energies are found to manage every day. Captioning inclusion is one way to stay active. We aim to raise awareness in new ways, and also find new ways to push training of professionals, new technologies, and new funding opportunities.

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