The Impact of Subtitles on Video Accessibility and Inclusivity


Content captioning is a huge market, and as subtitled content becomes the norm, those who don't subtitle their videos are missing out on opportunities for discovery and audience retention. While the advantages of subtitles for marketing purposes have become obvious, their role in creating an inclusive content distribution landscape is yet to be explored.

Subtitles can help make content more accessible to deaf individuals as well as those with hearing impairments. It also allows people from other countries to digest content more easily. For neurodivergent audiences, subtitles can help those with APD and SPD get a video's message.

This article covers the different contexts, situations, and audience groups that might not be able or access your videos without subtitles. You will also learn how to make your content more accessible and inclusive of those excluded by uncaptioned videos. By the end of this post, you will know all you need to know about the role of subtitles in video accessibility.


Subtitles For Differently Abled Individuals

People who cannot listen as clearly as the average individual or are completely deaf can understand subtitled videos. Given that 20% of the global population is affected by hearing challenges, betting entirely on audio for knowledge delivery is imprudent.

By omitting closed captions, you miss out on the opportunity to reach a section of your prospective audience and deprive people who might need your content from having access to it.

This is true for knowledge workers as well as entertainers. Regardless of whether your content informs people about specific issues or simply spreads laughter and joy, it is in everyone's interest that it is subtitled and easily accessible. In fact, there is an opportunity in every niche where the existing creators haven't started consciously captioning their content for inclusivity.

By making a choice to get the extra mile, you can earn audience loyalty and reach a currently underserved market. Please note that most social platforms auto-transcribe video content, but these captions are far from accurate. That's why conscious captioning can help bridge the gap.


Subtitles For Linguistic Accessibility

Even people who can hear perfectly might need closed captions because of a language barrier. The global appeal of anime and Korean dramas revolves around dubbing and subbing. While the mainstream audience prefers dubbed content, many passionate consumers like to consume subtitled (subbed) content. That's because they feel like the original audio is essential to the experience.

Whether you’re making content meant for a global audience or not, having captions in different languages is a good idea. It allows people from other countries to consume your content even if you’re not intentionally attempting to build an international audience. There are plenty of examples of people who got famous to an unexpected fanbase. Why shut that door on yourself?


Subtitles For Context Accessibility

Context is crucial. Sometimes, people consume your content when they're busy listening to music. Sound-off browsing is what most IG stories are optimized for, for example. And screen-off consumption is what most podcasts are optimized for. Understanding how your audience is watching your videos will help you cultivate a high retention rate.

Subtitles are essential in the following contexts:

  • Shortform content – Captions provide constant visual interruption, which can keep people occupied. In the absence of captions, they can get easily distracted.

  • Content consumed when listening to music – Passive sound-off scrolling is common. When your video is captioned and is autoplay with sound-off, the subtitles have a chance to grab attention.

  • Content consumed with bad earphones – You can never assume that everyone watching your videos has excellent earphones. Sometimes, their listening device is so bad that they can only consume captioned content.

  • Videos watched in public without earbuds – When watching videos in public, people either mute their videos or use earphones. If anyone forgets their earphones at home, their only option is to watch captioned content.

  • Videos watched on speaker in a noisy environment – Again, you can never predict this context, but by captioning your content, you can definitely make it inclusive of people in this predicament.


Subtitles And The Future Of Content Sorting

Algorithmic content discovery keeps changing. There was a time when Youtube videos were organized entirely based on hashtags and keywords in the content description. To understand why subtitles are the future of content discovery, you must understand how content sorting has changed.

Nowadays, content tags are used by Youtube's sorting algorithm to reconcile common spelling errors. For instance MrBeast, Mr. Beast, and Mister Beast all signal toward a single entity.

So, content tags are used not to find content but to see alternative phrases used by people looking for your content. We can use ContentFries, Content Fries, and Content Frys in our Youtube videos to tell the algorithm that all these words mean the same thing. But can we use "content repurposing" in the tags to get traffic from the search term? No.

Youtube now accesses the transcript of your content to see if it is relevant to the keywords. So, if our video captions feature the word "content repurposing," we will get traffic for it. For native English speakers and those with a crisp command of the language, Youtube's auto transcription is sufficient.

But if one does not speak clearly or has a foreign accent, then the algorithm might be unable to categorize and distribute content effectively.

With conscious captioning, you ensure that the transcript of your videos is as accurate as possible. In return, the algorithms can pick up on the words used in the video and distribute the content more accurately.


Subtitles For Neurodivergent Consumers

"The internet is killing attention spans" has become a bit of a meme. From fears around "sludge content" to "social media detox" accounts ironically delivered on social media, people are becoming increasingly aware of how boredom-starved the internet is becoming. You cannot even let a second of your content go by without something happening, or the new consumer will simply walk away.

In all of this, something very important is lost. There are real people with clinically diagnosed ADHD. What's superficially addictive to most fresh consumers might be the only type of content they can consume.

Neurodivergent individuals might need a form of distraction to be able to pay attention. Subtitles can offer them this bit of novelty without pulling them out of the content itself. Let's dive further into the relationship between neurodivergence and closed captions.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder covers a diverse spectrum of individuals who face challenges regarding focus and stillness. There is no "one size fits all" solution for ADHD, and the use of captions doesn't impact all patients equally.

As mentioned earlier, some people with ADHD prefer captions as the words on the screen give them something novel to focus on. However, others might find subtitles distracting.

Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing Disorder is a condition where understanding sound signals can be tough for the neurodivergent individual. Two of the most common issues people with APD have are distinguishing dialogue from background noise and telling apart similar-sounding words. Both of these problems can be fixed with closed captions.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorder refers to a condition where one cannot process multiple sensory signals at the same time. For many individuals with SPD, it can be incredibly difficult to watch videos with heavy dialogue. They can often pay attention to the audio or the video only. And if you include subtitles in your video, then they can understand your message without getting overwhelmed.


Hyperlexia is a form of neurodivergence where one is gifted with the ability to read and process text easily. Children with hyperlexia often finish books quicker than their peers. Those who have hyperlexia might also have a nerfed ability to process words through audio. They often prefer consuming their content with captions.


Dyslexia is a well-researched form of neurodivergence. People with dyslexia have a tough time with spelling and reading. For them, consuming content without captions is much easier than consuming it with captions. Individuals with dyslexia might form the only group that would not benefit from well-captioned content.


This is a very small set of neurodivergent individuals. People who have dyscalculia are mathematically challenged. For them, information regarding mathematical concepts and numbers is best delivered from multiple sources. Seeing numbers on the screen can help them process the information more easily. That said, the dyscalculia context is valid for a very small niche (math educators).

OCD And Anxiety

An often under-discussed form of neurodivergence in the captioning conversation is OCD. Anxious people and those with an Obsessive Compulsive condition might feel like they're missing out if they do not catch every word in a video. Subtitles can relieve them of the stress of missing any words.


How Important Are Subtitles For Accessibility And Inclusivity?

Content without subtitles doesn't explicitly exclude individuals but remains hard to consume for those who speak a different language or don't process auditory information the same way most people do. Without captions, your content may not be accessible to people in the following contexts and categories:

  • Deaf people – Uncaptioned content is impossible for deaf people to fully comprehend when it relies on dialogue to drive a point.

  • People with APD and SPD – Audio and sensory processing disorders can prevent many people from understanding the message of an uncaptioned video.

  • Foreigners with a limited grasp of English – For people who hail from a different region than you, your pronunciation might be hard to get, even if you're a native English speaker.

  • People who can’t play the audio because of a temporary situation - As covered in the context section, some people are temporarily unable to watch videos with the sound on.

Uncaptioned content is still accessible to the following types of people, but it can not be as stimulating or engaging to them:

  • People with ADHD – While people with ADHD can technically consume content without captions, some of them might find it to be a chore.

  • People with Hyperlexia – Individuals with hyperlexia would likely skip uncaptioned videos or turn on auto-captions.

  • Avid short-form content consumers – Those who consume TikTok, Reels, or Shorts for over 30 minutes a day might be primed to skip content that isn't edited for hyper-retention. Captions can help with hyper-retention.

  • People with a different accent – Viewers in other countries might prefer the ability to read subtitles, but they can still understand a video’s message if they understand the language.


Content Accessibility Best Practices

Having covered the importance of video subtitles for different situations and audience groups, let’s explore content inclusivity on a broader level. In this section, you will learn the key practices that can broaden the reach of your videos.

Multilingual Captions

Many content-captioning services, including ContentFries auto transcription, allow some form of multilingual captioning. You can translate the transcript of your video via Google Translate or with the help of a freelance translator. Content distribution platforms like Youtube allow you to upload caption files in different languages.

Netflix has mastered multilingual captions. But that makes sense because many of Netflix Original hits come out of countries other than the USA. Multilingual captions can have diminishing returns, though. There are over 7000 languages in the world, and getting your content captions translated into all of them isn't worth it.

But at a minimum, you should try to make your video captions available in the following languages:

  • Hindi – Hindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with over 584 million speakers.

  • Spanish – The language has over 485 million speakers. That’s more than English!

  • English – There are over 373 million native English Speakers and plenty who speak it as a second language.

  • Russian – Today, there are over 260 million native Russian speakers in the world.

  • Chinese – Over 1.3 billion people speak Chinese, but China's firewall prevents plenty of global content from reaching its population. Still, it is worth captioning your content in this language for overseas Chinese.

Hyper-Retention Editing

Captioning content for understanding is different from captioning it for user retention. Hyper-retention editing ensures that every frame is stimulating enough to keep the viewer engaged. Subtitles happen to change constantly, bringing novelty to the screen. You can also do other things to make your videos better at audience retention.

  • Use sound effects – From “Ding!” to applause tracks, different types of sounds can be overlayed onto your project’s audio track. These effects can keep your video from seeming monotonous.

  • Add stickers and emojis – Relevant emojis, stickers, and gifs can suit some times of content. Where they are appropriate, they bring freshness to the frame.

  • Edit out the pauses – Even short pauses can be too boring for a modern audience. A hyper-retention edit is ruthless with pause elimination.

  • Use engaging transitions and cuts – Finally, you can use visually engaging transitions and frame movements to draw the viewer in.

Broadly Usable/Entertaining Substance

While the edit contributes to a video’s potential engagement, the substance affects its relevance. To make your video more accessible, you have to make it more usable. If your videos cover dental insurance, then you can’t expect them to work for people who don’t have any teeth.

Jokes aside, the point stands. The more culturally specific or region-locked your content gets, the less accessible it is to people who live elsewhere. By making a conscious effort to make your content broadly useful and understandable, you can make it more inclusive.

The following factors will ensure broad usability.

  • The contextual background required – Do the viewers need to know something specific to enjoy the video or learn from it? Reduce insider references and analogies.

  • The global validity of the information – Is the information contained in your videos usable for people everywhere?

  • The global usability of the solution – Is the message of the video valuable to people regardless of where they live?

We understand that it is not practical for everyone to create global content. Even our content helps creators only. But even within specific niches, you can be as inclusive as possible. ContentFries blog posts help female and male creators equally.

It also helps content creators no matter where they live. However, it isn't of much value to someone who just consumes content. So what's the broadest relevant audience that you can optimize your content for?

Precise Script-Writing

Within the niche or the market that you choose to serve, you’ll find your viewers. And to make your content accessible to them, you have to respect their time. A precise script helps you do that by getting straight to the point. Avoid repetition and fluff, regardless of your content niche.

Alternative Media Access

For images, you can add text and audio descriptions, and for videos, you can add transcripts. By adding as much multi-faceted information as possible, you can make your content accessible to people with different kinds of impairments and challenges.

Platform Access

The final form of inclusivity is the platform-specific one. While many people are on all social media platforms, not every individual is on every single platform. You can distribute your content to different platforms and repurpose it across different media so it is available to as many people as possible. [ContentFries]( can help you auto-caption your videos and repurpose them into images, blog posts, etc., for broader distribution and accessibility.


Final Thoughts

Subtitles can help make your video easier to understand for people in different parts of the world. It can also make your content more inclusive to neurodivergent individuals and those with hearing impairments. If you want to make your videos more accessible, subtitle them and follow the best practices covered in the post above.