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      Subtitles and signing on TV and films

      Without doubt, people with hearing loss have much better access to TV than in the past – and we're determined to make sure it continues to improve. Here are a few ways you can make the most of your TV viewing, using accessibility features such as subtitles and sign interpretation.

      Subtitles

      Most TV and set-top boxes such as Freeview, Sky, Virgin and BT, will have a subtitle function, so you can choose to switch subtitles on or off through your remote control. If you're watching a programme that has subtitle content, the subtitles will appear when you switch on this function.

      But far too many programmes remain inaccessible: they don't have subtitles or the ones they do have are poor quality. Many programmes available through catch-up or video on demand services do not have subtitles, even if the programmes were subtitled when they were originally broadcast!

      Through our Technology Initiative for Hearing Loss, we are continually trying to catalyse innovation in and the development of technology to help improve subtitled content. If you have a concept or technology that you think may be of interest to us, contact us through our Request for Support form.

      Help us improve access to television

      In June 2015 we launched our Subtitle it! campaign to end the digital exclusion faced by people with hearing loss when watching on-demand TV and films. On 8th February, as a result of the campaign, parliament voted in favour of changing the law so that on-demand broadcasters will be legally required to provide minimum levels of subtitles.

      When the Digital Economy Bill receives Royal Assent (expected by May 2017) it will become the 2017 Digital Economy Act – and the Subtitle It! amendment will become law. Following this, we will proactively engage with Ofcom during their consultation process and make the case for them to create a robust code which quickly drives up the amount of on-demand content with subtitles.

      The next phase of our campaign will then depend on the recommendations that Ofcom brings forward. But you can count on us to call on the government to keep its promise and deliver the secondary legislation needed to create the code.

      Thanks again for all your support with this campaign; we hope you share our feelings of excitement at seeing the Subtitle It! amendment passed. Together we have made a real difference and look forward to seeing subtitles rolled out on on-demand content – and we may be calling on your help again to ensure that this exciting development is transformed into solid improvements for subtitle users.

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      Cinema

      There has been a significant improvement in the availability of subtitles in cinemas. But you may find that it's a very different picture locally. The number and timings of subtitled screenings vary widely from cinema to cinema; if you're lucky one or two in your area might have regular time slots.

      Your local cinema will normally list subtitled screenings as ‘ST’, ‘subtitled’ or ‘captioned’. All subtitled screenings are also listed on the accessible screenings website YourLocalCinema.com, where you can search for films by location and film title.

      Visit our Going to the cinema page to find out more about how to make the most out of your trip to the movies.

      Sign interpretation

      Some TV programmes will have sign interpretation. You can find out which ones do on the service provider's TV guides (which you access via the set-top box's remote control) and the broadcasting channel's website.

      Unfortunately, cinemas rarely have sign-interpreted showings. But it's worth double-checking on the venue's website. Some cinemas use a 'second screen' technology where you can view signed content on your phone or tablet during the main viewing but this is rare and the technology is still in development. .

      Through our Technology Initiative for Hearing Loss, we are constantly working to catalyse innovation in, and the development of technology to help improve subtitled and sign interpretation content. If you have a concept or technology that may be of interest to us, contact us through our Request for Support form.