Ashley Graczyk: Please Caption This

Ashley Graczyk, an independent councillor for the Sighthill-Gorgie ward, says all organisations can take simple steps to ensure their social media content is accessible to all

THE political landscape has changed dramatically, and politics is fast-paced and ever-changing. It is more important than ever to ensure all members of our society can access and participate in a society that is politically inclusive. 

As the first profoundly deaf City of Edinburgh Councillor and fully dependent on lip-reading, having access to politics is immensely important. I cannot use the radio or do phone calls so I’m dependent on the TV and internet, including the social media, to keep track of the latest politics and news. Yet social media videos can be immensely frustrating due to access barriers for deaf people.

READ MORE: Gordon Anthony: Here's one tiny thing you can do on Twitter to make life better for visually impaired people

Imagine trying to follow the Brexit process at the EU Parliament or from various non-English speaking European MEPs or media, and non-English languages are only rarely translated into English captions as an afterthought when someone can be bothered? Without captions, those who use them can miss out on debates, discussions, conversations and the latest news, it can be quite an isolating experience knowing you do not feel included – welcome to the deaf world on the social media!

If politicians, political parties, think tanks, organisations and the media truly want all their viewers to engage with their content on the social media then they need to make their videos accessible with captioning to provide access to deaf and hard of hearing viewers. 

Captions are a lifeline for most deaf people as we need to be able to see what people are saying via captions, lip-reading and/or British Sign Language. Captions benefit everyone in providing a way for people to understand and follow dialogue and audio. They are also educational, resourceful and help to improve grammar and understanding of language, including those whose first language is not English. There will also be a bigger audience reach and moving up higher in the search algorithms!

READ MORE: Michael McEwan: It's a matter of dignity that public toilets should be accessible for all

All of us can make an immense impact for positive change by making the same admirable stance as Glasgow Women’s Library (see picture above) and Inclusion Scotland by refusing to retweet or share from social media accounts if posts contain videos with no subtitles or pictures with no image descriptions for the visually impaired. We can also contact our favourite politicians, organisations, think tanks and media to ask them to caption their videos because accessibility matters.

These acts of political inclusion allow all of us to be counted, be seen and be heard.

COMMONSPACE FORUM 26 SEPTEMBER: Indyref at 5