Who is Closed Captioning for?

Closed captioning and subtitles allow an individual who is D/deaf or hard of hearing to read and comprehend what is occurring in a video through words displayed on-screen. Research now supports the idea that closed captioning may also be beneficial to more than just the individuals who rely on eAccessibility tools and techniques.

The following video is an example illustrating closed captioning. (NOTE: You may need to turn the captions on by activating the "CC" button.)


Closed Captions are text alternatives for the audio in a televised program or streaming video that typically appear at the bottom of the screen, and aim to describe dialogue, speaker identification, and music or sound effects for the D/deaf and hard of hearing.

Subtitles, similar to closed captions, are text alternatives for the audio in films from streaming television services or distributed on DVD/Blu-ray. They typically only reflect on-screen dialogue, and can be toggled on and off by the viewer. Subtitles are often used for foreign language translation and to aid in understanding speech clearly.


Closed captioning benefits all individuals

Closed captioning and subtitles are characteristically associated with the D/deaf and hard of hearing, but a growing body of evidence suggests that captioned video is beneficial to all viewers.

A meta-analysis of more than a hundred empirical studies, completed by the National Institutes of Health in October 2015, cataloged a myriad of benefits to viewing captions including the ability to:

  • Summarize main ideas (Markham, 2000–2001)
  • Recall key facts (Brasel & Gips, 2014)
  • Draw inferences (Linebarger et al., 2010)
  • Define words (Griffin & Dumestre, 1992–1993)
  • Identify emotions (Murphy-Berman & Whobrey, 1983)
  • Answer multiple-choice comprehension questions (Hinkin, Harris, & Miranda, 2014; Markham & Peter, 2002–2003; Murphy-Berman & Jorgensen, 1980).


Closed captioning benefits for students

In a recent national study, Student Uses and Perceptions of Closed Captions & Transcripts, conducted by Oregon State University’s Ecampus Research Unit, nearly 99% of students reported that they found captions helpful. Additionally, 52% of students surveyed said that viewing captioned content improved their comprehension, while 27.3% of study participants reported using captions to enhance their understanding of challenging vocabulary – a benefit observed within the UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences.

Choosing videos that already contain closed captioning, or planning to incorporate closed captioning when creating new videos, will help to provide an alternative way for individuals to understand the information. By using this eAccessibility technique, you can begin to create accessible content from the start, opening the doors to new possibilities for students and potential students along the way. 

Written for the Accessibility Network by IT@UC's eLearning Instructional Technologist, Dave Rathbun.