Report into challenges facing deaf and hard of hearing audiences in Wales published

Today (25 November 2014) Swansea University researchers have published a report, entitled ‘Digital Switchover and Hard of Hearing Audience in Wales’, looking at the communication barriers facing hard of hearing audiences after the digital switchover in Wales.

Launched at the Senedd and hosted by Ann Jones AM, Chair of the Cross Party on Deaf Issues, the report has called for more to be done to ensure that opportunities made possible by the digital switchover are fully utilized in order to ensure a positive viewing experience for deaf and hard of hearing audiences in Wales.  

Digital Television and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Audiences in WalesThe report was conducted by lead researcher Dr Yan Wu, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, and Dr Elain Price, Media Lecturer, and Dr Leighton Evans, Post-doc researcher and was part of a research project based at the Research Institute of Arts and Humanities, Swansea University, funded by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, BBC Wales, Bridging the Gaps Fund, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and S4C.

The study highlighted that subtitles are the most important facilitating tool for deaf and hard of hearing audiences in their understanding of television programming. Common problems associated with sound quality and subtitles affect both the wider audience as well as deaf or hard of hearing audience. However, for the deaf or hard of hearing audience, where a significant number rely on digital hearing aids (68%) and also lip read (about one third), the demand for better sound quality and better subtitling service is more acute.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • Ofcom guidelines on the quality of subtitles should be further implemented.
  • an awareness campaign is needed to help deaf and hard of hearing audiences to understand the full range of interactive services available on the digital television platform, including altering the size and colour of subtitles, and switching on Welsh language subtitles.
  • accredited deaf and hard of hearing awareness training should be ensured for public broadcasting staff as well as commercial programme producers. Such training should exemplify European standards such as the R128 Loudness specification and the best practice in dealing with issues such as background noise in news production.
  • more opportunities for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to take part in media co-production.
  • broadcasters should consider the identified needs from people who are deaf and hard of hearing for more Welsh language subtitles.

Dr Yan Wu, lead researcher of the ‘Digital Switchover and Hard of Hearing Audience in Wales’ report, said: “Ever since the Digital Switchover, television audiences in Wales have more programme choices as well as new means of accessing information, education and entertainment via various platforms. However, our study suggests that deaf and hard of hearing audiences faces a number of communication barriers in using digital television. We hope this report provides useful reference to public broadcasters, broadcasting media regulators, policy-makers, and the deaf and hard of hearing community in general.”

Richard Williams, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, said: “People with hearing loss in Wales rely on subtitling to have equal access to TV services. This is not a luxury it is an essential service.

“There have been some improvements to subtitles, but there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure that the one-in-five people with hearing loss in Wales have equal access to TV.

“We hope broadcasters will take action and improve the quality of their subtitling as a result of the strong views in this report and we will continue to work with TV channels and decision makers in Wales, to ensure this is the case.”

Ann Jones AM, Chair of the Cross Party Group on Deaf Issues, added: “This is a comprehensive and important study into the inclusion of deaf people in broadcasting. Many deaf people often tell us that there is not enough provision for them and I want to see this change."

Click here to read the 'Digital Television and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Audiences in Wales' report.