Online news videos still too little subtitled

18 May 2022

Important information about, for example, a health crisis or war situation can be found quickly via the many online news channels.

But if you are deaf or hard of hearing, that is not so obvious. Research published today shows that less than half of online news videos are subtitled. In the absence of subtitles, people who have poor hearing or not at all miss the news. Only RTL Nieuws subtitles all online news videos.

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. An international day focused on raising awareness of digital accessibility and inclusion. Having access to information is a basic right. But for people with a hearing impairment, it is often impossible to follow a video without subtitles. The group of subtitling users is much larger than the 1.5 million people who are deaf or hard of hearing. People with autism, non-native speakers and people who want to learn Dutch also use subtitles. Together, more than 4.5 million people can benefit from subtitling.

Shocking results of research

Scribit.Pro, a service that makes it possible for providers of online video content to make their videos completely accessible, examined the state of subtitling in online news videos. Videos offered on the home pages of the 30 most visited news websites were examined in the Netherlands. The results are staggering. In January and February of this year, only about 40% of the news videos offered subtitles. In March this was even only 30%.  

Bright spots

Was it equally bad everywhere? Fortunately, the two largest news providers, the NOS and RTL, also appeared to score the best of all the parties examined. Because of their wide reach, they have the greatest influence with their channels and they seem to feel that responsibility. It must be said that RTL, which provides all its videos, is doing considerably better than NOS, which makes about half of its videos accessible in this way. 

Dr. Eric M. Velleman, Professor (lector) Inclusive Digital Design & Engineering, HAN University of Applied Sciences:

“This research shows why much more attention is needed for accessibility. Providers are not always aware of the fact that they exclude so many people. Ultimately, accessible publishing should become the norm for everyone.”

Time for action!

The importance of subtitling should be understood by everyone. 

Wouter Bolier of the interest group Elke(in): 'This study confirms our suspicions that there is far too little subtitling available on Dutch news websites. This means that important information is not available to a large group of people. This really needs to get better.'  

The collaborating interest groups Elke(in), Stichting Audiovisual Accessibility, Stichting Hoormij∙NVVS, Divers Deaf and SH-Jong, Dutch Deaf Youth and Deaf people call on their supporters on the Global Accessibility Awareness Day to make news editors and content creators aware of the need and benefits of subtitling. Using sample texts that can be found on the website Knipplak.nl, they ask users to comment on the video if subtitles are missing or have been added. With this action, people who need subtitles want to call on news editors to think better about accessibility and make the videos in question accessible.