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'I'm rediscovering the TV shows from my childhood, this time with subtitles.'

Anja van SteenbruggeExpert by experience in subtitles
Portrait of Anja with a yellow surface around it. Next to it is in yellow quotation marks: Only now do I discover what I missed as a child on television without subtitles or hearing tools

Introduction

Anja is 34 years old and lives in Leidschendam. She works as a cook at Central Park in Voorburg, a restaurant that was awarded a Michelin star last April. In addition to her catering job, Anja also manages and maintains websites. Anja was born 13 weeks early and there was a lack of oxygen during delivery, because of that she is hard of hearing. In her spare time, Anja likes to undertake fun activities with friends who, like her, are hard of hearing. Playing tennis is also something that she likes to do, but due to her full schedule at the moment unfortunately she can’t do it regularly with a tennis buddy.


What do you like to watch?

'To find some peace next to my hectic job, I regularly watch a film or a series. At home I use streaming services such as Videoland, HBO Max, Netflix, Disney + and NPO Start. Occasionally I also like to go to the cinema. Where I visit Englisch-language films and use normal, ‘translating’ subtitles. I have also used the Subcatch app, with which you receive subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing with the movie shown via your phone or tablet. I was also present at the launch of the app.'


‘Only now do I discover what I missed as a child on television without subtitles or hearing tools.’


What was a pleasant, accessible viewing experience?

'I think it's great that Netflix and Videoland, for example, now often also offer subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for Dutch films and series. For example, I rediscovered children's programs from the past, which can now be found there with subtitles. When I was young, there was no technical solution for the deaf and hard of hearing for television programs. There were no hearing tools such as solo equipment or streamers (which directly connect the sender and receiver) or induction loop (a kind of amplifier that filters out background noise). Yet I watched those programs as a child, by paying attention to what happened on screen. But only now do I discover what these children's television programs were about at the time and what I missed. I sometimes think: how did I watch this before?'

What do you experience when the content you want to watch is not accessible?

'I hope YouTube gets started with better auto-generated subtitles. You often have to activate the subtitles yourself, which is not always possible. The recorded sound in online videos, such as vlogs, is also often of poor quality because a microphone is not always used. At the same time, background noises are often strongly present. So a feature to amplify the sound would help immensely.

It sometimes happens that the automatic subtitles on YouTube say that there is 'MUSIC' or 'LAUGH', while someone is busy with a hammer, for example. Because I know that the tap of a hammer sounds different and because I can see that carpentry is being done, I can then determine for myself what is going on. But I would like to see this improved, because you are now presented with information that is simply not correct.'


What needs to be done to make video makers and content providers more aware of the need for video accessibility?

'It would be desirable if automatically generated subtitles were no longer necessary, because every online video is subtitled when published. I understand that this is a difficult point for content creators, as they may sometimes have deadlines and want to upload videos at a rapid pace. But I would still like to convince makers of the need for good subtitles for videos. At Instagram I see that creators sometimes subtitle their content. The speed of the video and therefore the reading speed is often very high, so that I sometimes have to play such a video a few times in a row to be able to read everything. But I really like it when others are aware of accessibility and have put effort into making what they produce more accessible.'

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