Closed Captioning Added to October 2011 General Conference Videos Online

  Melissa Merrill, Church News and Events

  • 17 January 2012

Article Highlights

  • Closed captioning in English has been added to the October 2011 general conference videos on LDS.org.
  • Projects that would add closed captioning in other languages and for other products are under consideration.

“The availability of captioned talks will enable English-speaking deaf and hard-of-hearing members to gain a more complete conference experience.” —Karen Staley, a member of the Church who is deaf

Closed captioning in English has been added to the October 2011 general conference videos posted online at LDS.org. The release marks the first time that videos on LDS.org have offered closed captioning.

In the past, closed captioning has been offered for the live broadcast on television and satellite, but not on the Church’s website. Archived general conference content on LDS.org has included conference videos in American Sign Language (available by selecting ASL from the language drop-down menu), but not everyone who is deaf or hard of hearing knows or uses ASL, said Christopher Phillips, manager of Disabilities Services for the Church.

Closed captioning, on the other hand, is more widely accessible and can be helpful to those without hearing disabilities. For instance, someone watching content in a library or other quiet environment (or in a very noisy environment) would still be able to understand what is being shared, even without sound. Captions also can help make video content more searchable online.

“This improvement will be a benefit to many who struggle with hearing loss, including those who might have lost their hearing later in life and haven’t had the opportunity to learn sign language,” said Karen Staley, a member of the Church who lives in Maryland and is deaf. “The captioned videos will help make the gospel more accessible to a large group of people.”

As a child, Sister Staley learned to speak without any special assistance and started to read lips without being conscious of it. When she was six years old, one of her schoolteachers suspected hearing loss and recommended to Karen’s parents that they have her hearing checked. Eventually Karen began wearing hearing aids.

Although hearings aids enable Sister Staley to hear many more sounds than she otherwise would, they don’t fully correct her hearing. For that reason, it’s difficult for her to accurately glean information from video, and she rarely watches TV programs or movies that are not captioned.

In some cases, Sister Staley will rely on video transcripts or summaries of video content that others provide to her, but in general, she prefers to watch such material herself.

“The speaker's emotions and intent are more apparent during the video presentation,” she explained. “Motivation, comfort, and inspiration seem to come more readily when there is a sense of personal connection with the speaker, as during a video. For instance, in the captioned Mormon Message ‘Good Things to Come,’ Elder Holland gives a very moving account of a difficult problem he and his family experienced.  Elder Holland's expressions and mannerisms add a great deal of meaning and understanding that could not effectively be conveyed through a transcript alone.”  

For that reason, she has appreciated the opportunity to watch captioned videos. When Sister Staley joined the Church in 1998, the local public access channel where she lived in Southern California televised general conference—including captions. And she says that in every place that she has lived since, “those organizing the local general conference satellite reception have worked hard to provide a way for members to view the captions at the meetinghouse.” She says she has also appreciated the Church’s providing online transcripts of the general conference talks within a week of the original broadcast.

But now with LDS.org offering captioned video, Sister Staley and her family—which includes three young children, who, like most young children, “cannot sit at the front of a darkened chapel for very long without disturbing others”—will be able to watch conference from home.

“I am looking forward to having access to conference videos with closed captioning,” she said. “It will help me to share general conference with my children since we will be able to watch the videos at home, and I will have the ability to lead games such as ‘Conference Squares’ and encourage the kids to pay attention to the talks. In addition, I will be able to more readily incorporate general conference talks into lessons I might give at home or at church.

“The availability of captioned talks will enable English-speaking deaf and hard-of-hearing members to gain a more complete conference experience,” she continued. “I'm very grateful for, and excited about, this change!” 

Bret Barton, digital media producer for the Church, agrees that this change will have positive effects for many.

“The goal is to give as many people as we can access to the prophetic word,” he said. “This project allows a lot more people to have that access.”

Other closed-captioned material from the Church currently includes Mormon Messages on the Mormon Channel on YouTube.