I’m about to tell you a secret!
You can increase the audience who hears your message by at least 10 percent! Interested? Read on …
This audience is all around you. They are in your community, you work with them, you shop with them, they may have even seen your website or television program, but they have NEVER heard your message! Who are these people? They are the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
While many churches provide sign language interpretation during their services for the hearing-impaired, all too few extend that message into the community. As a result, hearing-impaired individuals and families who desperately need to hear the Gospel go through life without knowing the saving power of Christ or the ministry your church can provide to them.
Statistics tell us that as much as 10 percent of the population has some level of hearing loss.
A powerful, and often overlooked, evangelism tool is closed captioning. This has become the means by which most of the hearing-impaired segment of our population receive communication. Yet closed captioning has gotten a bad rap…
A couple of years ago, the FCC mandated that broadcasters must close caption the majority of their programs. The broadcasters passed this responsibility on to the programmers. Most Christian television programmers felt like this was an unnecessary additional cost and looked for the cheapest way to fulfill the new requirements. In doing so, they missed the incredible opportunity God had given them.
Perhaps you have seen poorly executed closed captioning – words are misspelled, often beyond intelligibility; captions invade the important video space and cover key picture elements; whole sections of audio are occasionally omitted. The average accuracy rate for this type of captioning as about 80 percent. That sounds good until you really think about it. What would the Bible be like if we remove 20 percent of the words? How intelligible would a pastor’s sermon be if every fifth word was omitted or garbled?
We would never stand for that kind of print or audio communication, yet we are guilty of forcing the hearing-impaired community to endure that kind of experience.
Captioning is more than just a technology for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. It also is used by children learning to read; people watching TV in noisy environments like airports and fitness centers; and people learning English as a second language.
Closed captioning isn’t just for television anymore. Technology has now advanced to the point that closed captions can be offered online as well. Think about the possibilities: Video clips and sermons on your website can be closed captioned. Video e-mails can be closed captioned. English messages can be captioned in a second language. Plus, once you caption your content, you have a written transcript that can be used to create printed materials. Captioning is now available for podcasts, mobile phones, and all types of video.
Here are a few simple guidelines:
1. Be creative. Try to discover new ways to use caption technology to reach more people in more places. Think about how a written transcription of the audio content can be used. Think about web, television, distributed video, printed transcripts, books, etc.
2. Explore the best option for you. There are three ways to caption your programming: electronically, manually, and outsource.
a. Electronic – requires upfront investment in software and hardware; frequent manual intervention to correct misspelled words, etc…
b. Manual – requires an upfront investment in software and hardware; manual transcription; manual intervention to ensure proper placement; periodic equipment upgrades.
c. Outsource – pay as you go, no upfront investment, always utilizing latest technology.
3. Don’t settle for junk. Make sure that your captions provide a quality viewing experience. Sloppy captions say, “I don’t care.” I recommend that you personally review your captioned product. Turn off the sound and watch to determine the quality of your experience.
4. Be consistent in your commitment to captioning. As with any missionary endeavor, consistency over time is required to build trust, increase awareness, and communicate effectively. Be sure your “Captioning Brand” is as consistent as your “Ministry Brand.”
I would love to hear from you about this subject (firstname.lastname@example.org). Let me know creative ways you come up with to use captions. Perhaps I’ll include some of your ideas in a subsequent column.