Facebook becomes more accessible to hearing impaired users

Facebook is “committed to creating an experience for all people” with “features and technologies that help people with disabilities, like vision loss and deafness to get the most out of Facebook.”

By: Dr. Pickett of Greentree Hearing & Audiology

Facebook becomes more accessible to hearing impaired users

Facebook becomes more accessible to hearing impaired users

Ask people how they keep in touch with their friends and loved ones, or how they get the bulk of their news, and usually the answer is Facebook. With an ever-expanding reach on both national and international level, Facebook has been integral in the past decade in how we communicate with one another.

It makes sense, then, that Facebook has devoted an entire team to ensuring accessibility. The Facebook Accessibility Team was founded in 2012 with the mission: “To make the world more open and connected.” For people with disabilities, Facebook is “committed to creating an experience for all people” with “features and technologies that help people with disabilities, like vision loss and deafness to get the most out of Facebook.”

Closed Captions for Facebook Live

For people who are hard of hearing, deaf, or experiencing hearing loss, Facebook’s new closed caption features on Facebook Live is an excellent addition to their accessibility options.

According to Mashable, “more than 5 percent of the world’s population – or about 360 million people – are deaf or hard of hearing. While Facebook’s new effort likely has at least some commercial interests behind it (captioning could also draw in more viewers wanting to watch the videos on mute), it certainly allows for deaf users to more fully experience videos on the platform.”

In an interview with USA Today, Jeffrey Wieland, Facebook’s director of accessibility, says, “It’s absolutely an imperative for the deaf and hard of hearing community, so our hope is that we can continue to build more and more tools in the captioning space that increase the amount of videos that have captioning both real time and otherwise.”

What is Facebook Live?

If you take a quick scroll through your Facebook Feed, you’ll see that there are videos that automatically play if you stop on them. These are regular videos that your friends or network are posting. Facebook Live videos are a little different.

According to Forbes, Facebook Live is “a new feature for its [Facebook’s] users, capitalizing on the recent trends of online video consumption and in-the-moment updates…it has the potential to change the way marketers and consumers approach the platform – not to mention influencing most of the platform’s contemporaries.”

Facebook Live is primarily important for people who work as social media marketers, but it is also important for the rest of us to understand as we continue to consume social media. Facebook Live is a live-video streaming option that allows you to broadcast live from your smartphone, while writing a description of the event. Your followers will “tune in” to your broadcast.

In addition to this trend, Facebook Live now offers live closed captions, to make live videos more accessible for people in hard of hearing communities. “Making Facebook accessible to everyone is a key part of building global community,” says Supratik Lahiri, a Facebook product manager. Live closed captions will now be available on both mobile and desktop Facebook apps.

Why is This Significant?

Beyond every day status update videos, Facebook Live videos can play an important role worldwide in emergency situations, politics-related content, or weather updates, according to Rikki Poynter, a 25-year-old deaf YouTuber. She believes closed captions for Facebook Live is a great idea, especially because it works with a third-party caption provider (which eliminates a lot of the awkward, poorly transcribed captions you might see in certain videos). Poynter says, “It’s something that people have been wanting for YouTube, but haven’t been able to get it.”

When it comes down to it, live captions on Facebook Live and other related video content is a matter of accessibility. In other words, according to an article in Mashable, “deaf and hard of hearing users deserve to have the same access to news, resources, and fun as anyone else. That simple fact makes this a move in the right direction for Facebook, and a model for other companies in the tech and social media space.”

Live Your Life to the Fullest by Treating Hearing Loss

If you have been experiencing changes in your hearing, or if you have been struggling with untreated hearing loss, take the first step to better hearing. There is no reason to live with untreated hearing loss. To schedule a consultation and hearing test, contact us at Greentree Hearing & Audiology.

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Sherry Pickett, Doctor of Audiology
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