'What About Me?' The Hearing Impaired Audience

Behind the Decision to Close Caption ON ASSIGNMENT Documentaries

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It was Christmas time, 2008. We had just completed the new master for Saint John Cantius, Restoring the Sacred and I was eager to show it.

I was sitting in the living room with my best friend from high school, John Caton, at his house in Kansas city. I put St. John Cantius, Restoring the Sacred in the DVD player and pressed play as John’s daughter, Megan, sat down at the end of the couch to watch.

After two minutes, she was asking enough questions that I paused the program. “What’s the matter?” I said. John turned to me to explain,

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John Caton and his daughter Megan as Santa and his elf.“Megan’s asking, ‘What about me?’ because she’s hearing impaired and can’t understand what it’s about.”

My excitement turned to guilt. I had never considered that a hearing impaired person would miss out on the message in our film.

That day motivated me to adapt StoryTel productions for those with hearing loss by adding closed captions.

Nearly 14% of the people in the U.S. have some amount of hearing loss, with a large share being at least 65 years old (Gallaudet Research Institute).

That is a large group of people who could benefit from our programs. Networks like EWTN, expect third party programming, such as our ON ASSIGNMENT documentaries, to arrive with closed captioning already encoded on the video.

In 2008, we were not a foundation and we had very little in the way of production funding. Today, we are still very small by industry standards, but we are now able to make it possible for Megan, and others like her, to be inspired by StoryTel productions.

We’ve just begun utilizing technology, which allows us to encode the closed captioning directly onto our videos before they reach EWTN or DVD, making it possible to view the closed captions on any television made after 1993.

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From now on all ON ASSIGNMENT programs will offer closed captions.

I am happy to announce that the ON ASSIGNMENT programs, St. John Cantius: Restoring the Sacred, St. Peters: Where Heaven Meets Earth, and Miles Christi: In the Mission Fields of America, will also inspire the hearing impaired across the United States and around the world.