Accessibility is one of the critical considerations before sharing a video with the public. It means making a video that most, if not all viewers, can watch and comprehend. SDH subtitles, or subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, can make your content accessible to people with hearing problems.

But how do SDH subtitles differ from other subtitles and closed captions?

The National Institute on Deafness estimates 15 percent of US grownups (nearly 37 million citizens), 18 and above, have some difficulty with their hearing. Therefore, creating content that’s not all-inclusive can limit your content’s reach.

According to Wikipedia, subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH) is an American phrase coined by the DVD sector. It refers to subtitles that include vital non-dialogue info, including speaker identification, which helps Hard-of-Hearing viewers who cannot tell who’s saying what by just watching the video.

Also, SDH subtitles are centrally-placed on the screen’s bottom, just like with Bluray Discs and DVDs, whereas CC or closed captions may appear centered, top, left or right, etc. This strategic positioning in SDH helps identify the speaker even in intersecting conversations.

The Role Subtitles, CC & SDH Subtitles

SDH, Subtitles, and Closed Captions all appear as text along with the video you’re watching. In essence, all are built to help make videos more accessible. They ensure viewers understand better and enjoy the content they consume.

These tools also assist those without hearing problems with video context and comprehension.  In one BBC research, 70 percent of interviewees admitted closed captions boosted understanding, and 80 percent of those who focus on captions do not have any hard-of-hearing.

When viewers can tell what a video is all about, they get more engaged and will likely follow it to the end.

Beyond that, they also help us create searchable videos. In essence, they help improve the video search processes by making your content visible on Google.

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Closed Captions, Subtitles & SDH Subtitles: Similarities & Differences

While it’s easy to draw a line between Closed Captions (CC) and Subtitles, most of us don’t know how SDH differs from these two.

  • Subtitles translate the audio in a video to a language that’s best suited for the target audience. They allow you to, for example, enjoy a Chinese movie while reading accompanying texts to understand it.
  • Closed captions (CC) are meant for the Deaf or Hearing Impaired and offer text for all video conversations and speeches. They also include info such as noises, sound effects, and soundtracks. Sometimes they also include the name of the speaker. Hence, the primary difference between the two; while subtitles assume that the audience can hear, closed captions assume the viewer can’t hear. No wonder CCs show all audible info, including sound effects, while subtitles only focus on conversations.
  • Subtitles for the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (SDH), on the other hand, blend the advantages of both CC and Subtitles. These born-in-America subtitles are explicitly embedded for the Deaf or Hearing Impaired and those who don’t know the default language in the video.

For instance, a French film meant for an English audience is translated from French to English. The SDH is then translated from French to English, also including any audible information.

SDH Subtitles are also different from CC and subtitles in appearance, positioning, and encoding. These fonts have different font colors, sizes, and styles. All these are vital components to look at when embedding SDH to a video. Plus, they differ from the others in that they are centrally-located at the screen’s bottom.

Furthermore, you can use SDH on various media files like Bluray DVDs and streaming web videos. This versatility is possible because SDH enables encoding via HDMI. CC is not compatible with HDMI encoding.

Finally, you’ll find that CC often appears seconds after screen conversations, while SDH shows in sync with the screen conversations.

FCC Requirements for Subtitles, Captions & SDH Subtitles

If you decide to embed SDH into your multimedia, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with some of these regulations.

For instance, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) now expects you to add captions to all advertisement videos or any form of video to be played publicly.

Netflix was also recognized in 2012 as a public streaming site and instructed to add captions to its video contents. This practice is now common among service providers as organizations adjust to comply with new laws.

The FCC also has unique requirements for video production. For compliance reasons, you want to abide by FCC’s regulation for CC and subtitles. These instructions are meant to ensure content is equally accessible to everyone and that the info shared is factual and visible to viewers.

Below are some vital FCC requirements to consider when adding any form of subtitles;

·       Accurateness

Your subtitles must show the exact video conversations, even in situations where video editors shorten to ensure proper timing. The same applies to songs where all lyrics must match the captions.

·       Synchrony

Next, your captions must synch with the ongoing conversations and the video.

·       Completeness

Once you choose to add SDH subtitles, never include any periods or gaps minus captions.

·       Positioning

Positioning is key. Your texts shouldn’t cover any part of the video that may compromise its comprehension.

The Advantages of SDH Subtitles

Have you understood the underlying discrepancies between these three valuable tools?

Let’s now discuss the vital role of SDH and why you should embed them on your multimedia content, shall we?

·       Attract More Viewers

A primary reason to add SDH is to make your video accessible by an unlimited group of viewers. Minus SDH, an entire 460 million Deaf and Hard-of-hearing people worldwide won’t be able to tell what your content is all about.

SDH also offers a means for non-native viewers to comprehend your video by providing a way to convert the default text language provided into their preferred lingo.

Making your videos available for these two audiences can boost your content viewership a great deal.

·       Increased access to content

Heavy accents, murmured, faster, or slurred speech can all compromise your message’s quality. To increase comprehension due to the above difficulties, you can include SDH subtitles.

Furthermore, SDH allows you to watch a video even after muting the sound. What’s more, you enjoy the full action because they also reveal audio effects and other non-conversational actions.

SDH captions are also an excellent way to help people with attention deficit disorders to concentrate on a video.

Embedding texts about a video’s conversations and further details about other audio sounds helps victims with the above conditions understand your content better.

·       Avoid Court Cases

We’ve seen companies suffer lawsuits for failure to make their multimedia content accessible, more so in the United States. A famous case is that of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Harvard University.

Back in 2015, the National Association of the Deaf took to court these two universities for making online classes, lectures, and other videos not comprehensible to the Deaf and Hearing Impaired.

Creating videos that everyone can resonate with is essential in avoiding similar court cases. Though subtitles and CC improve access to content, SDH offers more benefits by making your multimedia content accessible to a broader web user segment.

·       Increase content comprehension

Your video won’t significantly affect the target audience if people can’t comprehend its contents.

Adding texts of the ongoing conversations makes it easier to comprehend the storyline, even in text sections that contain inaudible talks or where background noises compromise audio quality.

If you’re marketing any product through a promotional video, the goal is to explain to customers why they should use it by flaunting its features. By having texts run along with your words, you can increase content comprehension and attract many buyers.

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How to Make Content that the Hard of Hearing and Deaf Can Access

It’s also important to follow some best practices when creating all-inclusive content. Taking these steps ensures the video and its accompanying captions are friendly to the deaf and hard of hearing.

Below are some tips to follow

1.     Reduce background noises to a minimum

People with hard-of-hearing strain to capture sounds, so too much background noise can compromise their access to content.

To achieve this, you can try one of these three alternatives;

  • Create high-quality audio that stands out from other background noise.
  • Make sure that background noises don’t exceed video conversations by over 20 decibels. Any noises lasting a second or two are exemptable.
  • Add a “turn off background sound” feature to your video
  • Eliminate any background noise
  • Record videos in low-noise or noise-free zones.

2.     Keep off Slang

Slang can compromise your message because the deaf doesn’t understand most slang words that may make sense to others.

For instance, replacing “YOU” with “U” can sound normal to us but may make no sense to the deaf. Similarly, while you can resonate with GR8, the deaf won’t see it as GREAT.

3.     Share transcripts for all your videos

In a digital era where everyone cares about access to content, it’s almost paramount to share your video transcripts with the public so that anyone can review or double-check gray ears.

Take advantage of the many tools to automatically create transcripts or hire an expert to transcribe your video manually.

To wrap up on SDH Subtitles

Adding texts of the ongoing conversations makes it easier to comprehend the storyline, even in text sections that contain inaudible talks or where background noises compromise audio quality.

Including SDH subtitles in your video may seem like a difficult task, especially if you know little about captions. But now that you understand their critical role in increasing content reach, you should consider starting today.


Submit a project at Bunny Studio and have a qualified transcriptionist create accurate texts of your video content.