Phone sitting on a desk displaying TikTok logo

Is TikTok Paving the Way for Accessibility on the Internet?

TikTok might not be a platform that you would think of when it comes to accessibility, however, perhaps it should be. TikTok and its community have pushed the use of closed captioning on all their videos. The company has created an automatic captioning service that can be turned on at the push of a button. The community have been the ones pushing other creators to use the feature, reminding them when their video doesn’t have them. Because if its so easy, why not?

It’s easy to forget that around 20% of the UK population are disabled. About 1 in 6 people in the UK are affected by some level of hearing loss. But not only that, hearing loss isn’t the only reason you might want to use/need closed captioning. Auditory Processing Disorder is an invisible disorder and a symptom of ADHD and Autism, this disorder makes it hard to understand what people are saying. You can hear the words, but your brain can’t process them. Captioning makes this much easier to manage and when it’s easily accessible, you’re widening your audience by about 5%.

TikTok isn’t the only company to offer these services (but they have been the only one to push it so readily). Microsoft Teams offers a service named Live Captioning in all of its meetings. Allowing users to see, as the title descripts, live captions. Along with who is saying what with name tags. This is a very easy feature to activate but it isn’t enabled by default, unlike TikTok’s captioning. When in the meeting, click on the three-dots “More Actions” icon at the top of the call window and select “Turn on Live Captions.” This will only turn on captioning for yourself, other people must turn them on by themselves. YouTube also offers these services on the scrubber bar at the bottom of videos, just click on the subtitle icon next to the settings cog. YouTube’s automatic captioning service has a bit of a reputation for being inaccurate, so if you’re uploading content I would recommend manually inserting captions (here’s a useful guide!)

Captioning might not always be at the front of your mind when creating content, however, when many sites make it so easy to add them, it seems like a win-win situation. You get a wider, more diverse audience and your audience gets to access content they might not have been able to before!