A model for optimising subtitles for deaf and hard-of-hearing television viewers in South Africa
Fernandes, Maria Manuela
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As a result of the lack of provision for Deaf and hard-of-hearing television viewers on South African television channels, there is a pressing need for research on ways in which to accommodate this community in this regard. Consequently, this study focuses on one possible solution to the problem, namely the optimal use of open subtitles for the benefit of this viewer group. There are three primary ways in which Deaf and hard-of-hearing television viewers are able to access information and entertainment, namely sign language, lip-reading, and subtitling. Subtitling is the most common method used for making television programrnes accessible to Deaf viewers. Currently, the dominant mode for subtitled programmes broadcast across SABC TV channels is open subtitling d11o to the fact that very few households have access to the decoders required for closed subtitling. At present, South Africa does not have specific legislation for subtitling for the Deaf viewer nor does the broadcasting industry follow any standardised set of subtitling guidelines. In addition, the number of programmes that are subtitled (or even intermittently subtitled) is limited and insufficient for Deaf viewers. This suggests that these viewers are not being adequately accommodated in terms of prograrrme viewing and do not have the necessary access to information. The first step in accommodating Deaf and hard-of-hearing television viewers effectively will be the standardisation and consistent application of subtitling guidelines. For this purpose, this study presents a model for optimising open subtitles for Deaf viewers. This model is devised by means of a synthesis of the parameters for closed subtitling and the subtitling needs of Deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers in South Africa. In the process, those principles of closed subtitling that provide this group with all the information that are available to hearing viewers are transferred to open subtitling. The guiding principle nevertheless remains not to alienate the hearing audience by ntroducing unnecessary visual obstacles.
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