31 March 2006

Seeing what you hear

According to research by Ofcom, of the 7.5 million people in the UK who use sub-titles while watching TV 6 million have no hearing impairment at all. This is a nice example of design for accessibility having advantages for a wide population. A web discussion following the BBC report of the research suggests some tangible benefits of sub-titles:

- allowing nursing mothers to watch the news while breastfeeding without disturbing the baby
- allowing people with young family to keep up with the TV above the din
- providing the lyrics for songs on Top of the Pops
- enhancing the experience of the Eurovision Song Contest as sub-titlers try to keep up with the challenge of transcribing the commentary.

The BBC report comments that once people get used to sub-titles they find it hard to let go of them. I suppose there's also the possibility that having turned them on they can't find the control to turn them off.

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