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Head of deaf charity slams lack of subtitles on streamed content

Tuesday, October 28th 2014 by Dean Reilly

Mainstream TV broadcasters have made progress in ensuring content is accessible for the deaf but on-demand providers still have work to do, a leading campaigner has said.

Susan Daniels (pictured), chief executive of the National Deaf Children's Society told Cable.co.uk: “Mainstream broadcasting, the BBC, ITV and so on are doing pretty well as far as access for children and young people who use subtitles. The main issue for us is around video on demand.

“There is still an issue about the amount of broadcasting that’s available through interpreting, but most children who use sign language do also use the subtitles. It’s quite interesting to see how that’s being received. There’s some positive stuff to report in relation to that.”

Speaking ahead of the Future of Subtitling conference in London this November, Ms Daniels said: “Most young people I think are watching TV online and content online. We think it’s highly unacceptable that deaf young people don’t have the same level of access to Netflix and so on, when that’s so much the way that they access content.

“Autocaptioning, for example, is just not there yet. You get a lot of gobbledegook when you try and use that as a form of access. Sometimes it’s better than others, and I get the feeling it’s better when the content owner has made a specific decision to make sure their content is accessible – and that’s not really autocaptioning as we understanding it.

“There’s definitely more work to be done. We are working with the ATVOD (The Authority for Television On Demand) to encourage video on-demand providers to make their content more accessible, but they have no statutory powers. It’s an area, particularly for young people, that needs to be improved.”

When asked if a statement from Ofcom calling for improvements in on-demand accessibility both in the UK and internationally would be welcomed by NDCS, she replied: “I think it would be massively helpful. In terms of content, so many countries will be using English as their main language. Not only have you got America, Australia, the UK and so on, but you’ve got a lot of content elsewhere delivered in English.

“Of course, not just deaf people would be using that, but also people who have English as a second language that are accessing that kind of content for all sorts of reasons. I think that would be really helpful.”

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