With one in six people in Australia affected by hearing loss, captioning is essential if video and other media are to be enjoyed by all. In 2010 a consortium of cinema companies sought to gain an exemption from the requirement to provide captioning. The Human Rights Commission deemed that the Disability Discrimination Act required them to provide captioning or a captioning option. Some people say that the captions (sometimes mis-named “subtitles”) are a distraction and that they should not be imposed on everyone.
For this reason, cinemas have special screenings and/or hand held devices for those who need it. However, in public areas, particularly with a lot of background noise, captioning should not be an option and should be operating at all times.
You can find out more about the differences between open and closed captioning, and when they are required, by going to Lee Wilson’s article in Sourceble, Open Captions: The Last Frontier in Accessibility.
Editor note: While most DVD videos sold in Australia have the captioning option (listed as subtitles for the hearing impaired), it is frustrating to see that some TV programs purchased from overseas are not captioned, for example, Orphan Black on SBS2. Also, ABC iView does not have this option on all TV sets, only on computer downloads. Worse is the Google instant captioning option that mangles all the words so that it is totally intelligible (unless you get that rare speaker with perfect diction).