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TV and captions for deaf children

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Your child may find captions a very useful way of following TV programs, DVDs, movies, cartoons and so on. Captions allow deaf children to read the spoken words and other sounds contained in the program or movie. They can also help your child to pick up new words, improve their reading skills and develop their understanding of many ideas and concepts. It is never too early to start using captions.

If your child is not sure that they have understood all the captions, they may benefit from watching the program or movie again. Many young children enjoy watching the same thing over and over again and this can help them to understand the meanings of different words. It is useful to always have the captions switched on when your child is around, as this will help them to see captions as a normal part of watching TV.

The use of captions in schools is beneficial to all students and allows for a more inclusive learning environment. Captions can also help others who don’t have hearing loss. e.g. visual learners, English as a second language (ESL), and when there is background noise.

Digital or smart televisions have a menu option to turn captions on and off. All Australian free-to-air broadcasters must provide closed captions on programs shown between 6:00 am and midnight on their primary channel. News and current affairs programs must have captions at all times. Most streaming services also offer captions. Most DVDs have subtitles in different languages that you can switch on and off through the DVD’s main menu. Check the back of the box to make sure a DVD has subtitles for deaf people or English subtitles.

The difference between captions and subtitles

Often people refer to closed captions and subtitles interchangeably, but there is an important distinction.

Both closed captions and subtitles are the text version of the spoken audio. However, while subtitles involve translating the video’s language into an alternate language, closed captions are in the same language as the audio.

Closed captions are created to allow deaf and hard-of-hearing people to experience the video, so they include background sounds and speaker changes. Subtitles assume the viewer hears the audio and as a result do not contain the background sounds or notifications for speaker changes.

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