Video Captions Benefit Everyone

computer/remote teaching station in NYThis is from Jonathan Taylor, Vice President of the NYC HLAA Chapter. An abbreviated version appeared in the New York Times a couple of days ago in response to a piece in adapting to online learning.

Video Captions Benefit Everyone

“In 2015, Dr. Morton Ann Gernsbacher, a professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, published an article in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences entitled, “Video captions benefit everyone.”

 In it, she reviewed more than one hundred studies on the benefits of video captioning and found that captioning “improves comprehension of, attention to, and memory for the video” for people of all ages and hearing ability. 

Those of us with hearing loss have long understood the benefits of captioning. What may come as a surprise to people without hearing loss is that they would also be helped. For example, Gernsbacher cited a 1983 study in which children with and without hearing loss were randomly assigned to watch a video in different conditions- with audio only, captions only, or with both. On a test of comprehension of the video, the children with normal hearing outperformed those with hearing loss in all conditions. But the most interesting result is that the children without hearing loss demonstrated better comprehension after seeing the video with captions than with audio, and still better with both. Similar results were reported in a study of second and third graders learning to read, and among second language learners. With schools closed due to the coronavirus, education at all levels is primarily online with videos and lectures. This might be an opportune time for educators to consider adding captions to these presentations.

 The benefits of captions are not limited to children. Adults also benefit from captioned videos. Whether viewing commercials or college course lectures, adults with and without hearing loss were better able to remember content when videos were captioned.

Opponents of open captioning in venues such as movie theaters have sometimes claimed that only a small number of people benefit from open captions, while the large majority object to their presence. For those of us who advocate for open captioning, these empirical results provide important evidence in support.”