Don’t Forget the Lyrics


Last week, members of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) along with other deaf individuals and advocates filed a Class Action lawsuit against Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Sony, and Netflix over the lack of captioning and/or subtitling of lyrics of songs in specific movies and television shows.

AG Bell and the other deaf advocates state in the 29-page filing that, “Movies or shows that do not include subtitled song/music lyrics withhold the full enjoyment of the movie or show from the deaf or hard of hearing consumers…”

Just as with detailed sound effect descriptions, lyrics to musical performances and songs playing in the program can be an essential part for full understanding and enjoyment of the show or movie.

One of the main parts of the FCC Caption Quality Best Practices for television is accuracy of captions. Accuracy ensures that captions are verbatim with program audio. This includes song lyrics.

“In order to be accurate, captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue, (English or Spanish), to the fullest extent possible and include full lyrics when provided on the audio track.”

AG Bell and the other advocates are also claiming that the practice of not subtitling violates civil rights of persons with physical disabilities to receive “full and equal access” to this programming.

Our offline captioners here at VITAC understand that if a hearing person can hear the lyrics in a program, we caption them. Captioners spend long hours deciphering music that some may consider unnecessary to the story, but our role is not to judge what is and isn’t important, but to ensure those who rely on captions have the same experience as someone who can hear the audio.

VITAC will be following this case closely. Stay tuned for more as it develops.

By Brittany Bender