Opinion

Acknowledge Your Apathy | Deaf Awareness Week 2021

Instagram has rolled out automatic captions on Stories today, to make content more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing users – let’s talk about that.

Rejoice, a social media app which has been around for years has finally introduced something it should have done long ago. Instagram users can now film videos and add automatic captions, which rely on speech recognition and people can quickly edit before sharing. Now begins the lengthy process of deaf and hearing people calling on as many people as possible to caption their content, whilst also dismantling any sense of ‘captions apathy’ that may arise.

What do I mean by that? It’s simple. Many hearing creators have shrugged off the idea of captioning their content based on the view that it’s either expensive, or time-consuming – to be clear, it is neither.

So, while I can welcome platforms making steps like Instagram did today (even if they are long overdue), that is only one part of the problem. The features can be there, and need to be there, but we also need to see said platforms making such tools easy to access, and incentivise all creators to use them. Case in point, YouTube axed community contributed captions back in September 2020, with “low usage” being one of their reasons for ditching the feature. Yet, when you search on Twitter for instances where YouTube’s official accounts promoted the tool to creators? Nothing at all.

‘Captions apathy’, in part, comes down to social media platforms viewing accessibility as a case of getting from A to B, as opposed to an ongoing process which requires constant improvement. For companies cranking out feature after feature after feature, captions can simply be a case of ticking a box and moving on once the bare minimum has been achieved, but that view seeps into the minds of creators. I know that, because hearing individuals have settled for automatic captions on their content, when that isn’t access – they’re infamous for their inaccuracy, for goodness sake.

So today’s post, albeit slightly late, asks you, as a hearing person, to acknowledge your apathy, and to never settle for a certain level of access, because we in the Deaf community certainly don’t.

Read the first blog post in my Deaf Awareness Week 2021 series, ‘Coming Through It Together‘, on my website now.

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