This post is a Reader’s Choice selection for 2013.
By Lauren E. 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.
MORE THAN COMPREHENSION
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.
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.
WHAT THE SURVEY TELLS US
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,” and “more 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.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
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.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
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:
- Tell your government and civic leaders the results of this survey and open a conversation. Continue it until progress is made.
- Fight against excuses such as lack of funds or ignorance about equal rights. Captioning is our language.
- Use social media to communicate, and be sure to take your discussions into action for captioning inclusion.
- 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.
- 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.