Imagine you are watching TV or a video with no sound, so you’re unable to hear the message. Or maybe you are seated at a restaurant where TVs are muted so you can’t understand your favorite channel. Or maybe you are trying to watch a foreign film with no English subtitles. How would you feel? Would you continue to watch any of these when you do not understand or hear the message?
This is exactly what the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities, non-native English speakers, and people with learning disabilities or attention deficits have been experiencing for many years when TV shows, commercials, movies and videos have not included closed captions (CC). In religious settings, including the Catholic Church, parishioners experience this lack of accessibility, too, when videos are shared without closed captions.
Being part of the Deaf ministry, I want to shed some light specifically about the Deaf Catholic community. The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) estimates that around “96% of [Deaf] Catholics are unchurched”. NCPD also encourages parishes and dioceses to promote meaningful participation of the Deaf people by implementing initiatives like captioned videos, Sign Language interpreters, Deaf Masses, and Diocesan Deaf Apostolates.
In our efforts to bring everybody closer to Jesus, the Deaf community cannot be neglected.
So how can our Catholic Community close this gap in a small way? As NCPD suggests, there is a very easy solution to provide video accessibility: create or enable closed captions. Creating or enabling CC will have a huge impact for our parishioners who are unable to access the Church’s community messages by traditional means. You can also further aid your community by reviewing automated closed captions for clarity and accuracy.
Providing closed captions is indeed the gift of inclusion: it provides parishioners and visitors equal opportunity to navigate our websites and YouTube channels. It also sends the message that we are sensitive to the Deaf community’s needs. This will ensure that everyone feels welcomed and valued within our Catholic community. We are called to "not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. " (Proverbs 3:27). Let us then give our community the gift of inclusion by providing closed captioned media.