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YouTube’s Decision To Shut Down Its Community Captions Irks Deaf Creators

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YouTube wants to shut down the community captions feature, but that decision is not sitting well with deaf creators and those hard of hearing. The feature allows viewers to add subtitles to videos giving more people access to content.


The Google-owned company says it is making the decision because the community captions feature was “rarely used and had problems with spam/abuse”.  YouTube says it will now will “focus on other creator tools.”


YouTube will remove the feature on 28th September 2020. “You can still use your own captions, automatic captions, and third-party tools and services,” YouTube said on its help page.


Deaf and hard-of-hearing creators, however, say that the decision to remove the community captions feature will stifle accessibility. Instead, they want to see YouTube fix the issues with volunteer-created captions.


Deaf YouTuber Rikki Poynter on her channel in May 2020 said that community captions were an “accessibility tool that not only allowed deaf and hard of hearing people watch videos with captions, but allowed creators that could not afford to financially invest in captions.”

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Poynter also ranted to her over 12,000 followers on Twitter about her disappointment.



Many creators also say that the feature helps them better reach deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. They say it helps translate their videos into other languages, expanding their audience.


A petition asking parent company, Google, to reverse the decision has garnered over 49,000 signatures as of 31st July 2020. “Removing community captions locks so many viewers out of the experience,” petitioner Emma Wolfe wrote in the petition.


However, YouTube says it will provide creators who have used the community captions feature on at least three videos in the past 60 days with a free six-month subscription to subtitling service Amara. The company says it will notify the eligible creators in the coming weeks.


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