Closed Captions Help with Comprehension, Understanding

by Carrie Jackiewicz, Special Services Coordinator

When I was teaching in a classroom, every Curriculum Night I recommended that parents put Closed Captions on their TVs at home. When I observe our students in their neighborhood schools, I use a checklist to document all the teaching strategies and accommodations that teachers use in their classroom. One accommodation I always look for is Closed Captions.

With the addition of Smart Boards to classrooms, I see Closed Captions more often than I did in the past. Teachers are able to turn on captions for most videos they show in their classroom. I have even seen captions on Go Noodle, which is used for movement breaks throughout the day.

I have several reasons why I recommend Closed Captions:

First of all, it is not possible to speech read a cartoon character’s lips, making it difficult to understand what characters are saying.

Having the captions on the screen gives a variety of information that aids comprehension of the media, including character’s names, new vocabulary, and context clues such as sounds or music.

Captions also help viewers connect what they are hearing with print, helping children learn to read while they are watching.

Finally, background noise may make it difficult to hear or understand. When I lived at an apartment near a runway at O’Hare, I had captions on all the time so I would not miss any dialogue on my favorite shows.

At the start of the COVID pandemic when videoconferencing became the best way to communicate, captions were not available. Over time, they have become available and they are an important way to help people with hearing loss understand and participate in video calls. One of Child’s Voice’s graduates uses the Live Transcribe app for video calls as well as in-person meetings. The app helps him catch things he may have missed and it helps him follow the conversation as it moves around between speakers.

Captions have also become popular on social media. Many videos on Facebook and Instagram now have open captions, where they are part of the video. These captions are beneficial for people with hearing loss and also for people who are hearing who watch the videos without sound.

It is wonderful to see media becoming more and more accessible for people with hearing loss. Do you have captions on at your house or on your phone? Do you find them helpful? If you have any helpful tips, please e-mail me.