Tuesday, February 12, 2013


A few months ago I was hit with the most simple, but penetrating question any child of deaf parents can be asked.   I didn't realize that by answering I was exposing the color of my soul.  After reflecting on the question it's fair to say it should perhaps be asked to every self-respecting member of the Deaf community. My wife and I sat down for a chat with an older deaf couple, when the husband blindsided me with, "Do you use captions when watching TV?" I paused for a moment, trying to discern what his angle was in asking me this off-the-wall question.  Before I could respond my wife interrupted, "YES! He does! ALWAYS!"  This man then looked at me with eyes as if I was his own son, and replied "I'm proud of you.  I'm proud of you.  I'm proud of you."

For most hearing persons an obstruction to the viewing screen is commonly considered offensive.  Even a quickly passing body, or corner of a chair blocking a portion of the TV may elicit a "Hey! Move it!" from those watching in the room.  As adolescents we felt no differently about closed captions.  It seemed that whether high or low on the screen, these black text filled blocks always covered the most intriguing part of the show.  Did Kobe hit the game winning shot?!?  We didn't know, because our screen was covered with subtitles for something the announcer said 15 seconds ago...

I'm fairly confident in saying that during an NHL playoff match, my dad barely paid any attention to the captions, but that didn't stop him.  We could be in the middle of TRL, or Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but if my Dad walked into the room, and the screen was clear, you were bound to see him say, "Turn ON closed captions! NOW!" The television was ruled by this Iron-Fist.  Sometimes in order to relieve the oppression we would even switch captions off while my dad was taking a bathroom break.  Lost in the few moments of delight, we were snapped out of it by a strong STOMP, and my father's hands signing "Hey! What happened to the subtitles? What happened?"

Now as an adult living a state away from my parents I rarely watch a movie if it doesn't offer subtitles.  I have a tough time understanding British accents, and like to think I have exceptionally accurate spelling.  Can both of these be attributed to my child-hood? I'm sure there's an article out there somewhere to prove this theory.  To CODAs, Netflix, hearing with deaf friends, CNN, and the like... I'd like to share with you one of my favorite quotes from my dad, "TURN ON THE CAPTIONS!" You would make many of us proud.

Including him....


  1. I learned to appreciate captions when I lived with a Deaf boyfriend in the early '90s. I guess it also helps that I have always loved foreign films and have never minded reading the captions. When I watch French- or Spanish-speaking movies, I listen and understand a lot (because I speak those languages pretty well), but use the captions as "training wheels." I am sure that hearing kids can learn a lot about spelling and words by watching TV with closed captions on. And how are hearing people supposed to understand TV in loud public spaces like bars and gyms? It amazes me when I ask a bartender to turn on the captions and they don't even know how. Some of the most fun I have with captions is learning the words to sounds I've always taken for granted, you know, those words in parentheses like "(chittering)" and "(tutting)." I think if more hearing people came to appreciate captions, they would fight for them along with deaf and hard-of-hearing people. And think of all the aging hearing people who are losing their hearing and don't even know their TVs have captions that could help them enjoy the TV better!

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting. I second your points about loud places and assisting with foreign languages! I have been very intrigued to see how English films are translated into spanish captions. I expected more of a word for word translation.

  3. I am doing a research on using closed captioning in the home with hearing children to increase their literacy skills. I am more and more positive the more I do that that universal captions could benefit everyone and create a better world! I just can't believe the Deaf community has to deal with this. I will do all I can to advocate for this injustice!!!! If you know of a list of all the channels/networks/organizations that do not use cc I would love that! Also, if you have a manual of some sort that shows how every TV or streaming company can access CC I would LOVE It!

    1. Sorry to reply so slowly. Honestly I don't have any kind of information or lists of which channels do or do not provide captioning. I would suggest to navigate https://www.facebook.com/captionTHISnow and see if you can find a person of contact. I have not been involved in any kind of formal research project. Thanks for your interest!