With tens of thousands of users participating in silent streams on apps like Bigo Live —Asia isn’t the only region where deaf and hard-of-hearing creators make their voices known. Deaf streamers in the U.S. are also finding ways to make silent streams on Twitch more inclusive for all audiences.
A few weeks ago, YouTube—owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet—also announced users would be able to suggest edits for automatic captions for videos. The feature, still in beta mode, is currently only available for a select group of users using English-language captions. “Our goal is to improve automatic captions and make videos more accessible for all viewers. This test will roll out to a small percentage of videos,” a Google employee said in a YouTube community thread. Despite the obvious interest in silent streams and similar content, another concern, Robinson said, is that many video game and film trailers are initially released without captions. “My biggest goal is to educate [people in] the gaming space,” he said. “People and developers may forget that disabled people exist in the gaming community.”Live auto-captions on online platforms can be helpful for obvious reasons, but they typically rely on speech-recognition technology, which creators and experts say is often hit or miss. “Experiences vary from streamer to streamer,” said Poynter, who has long advocated for proper closed captioning on social media. “Sometimes, the captions are decent because of the person’s voice clarity, and the equipment and settings they use are really good and high quality—so the live auto-captions may deliver the proper words.”
People and developers may forget that disabled people exist in the gaming community.
“Deaf people, especially oral deaf people, have enough of a difficult time dealing with people accusing us of faking if we’re speaking,” Poynter said. “So, this essentially adds on to that.” Still, deaf and hard-of-hearing content creators are keen to focus on what people within their communities can achieve—despite internet users’ quick or false assumptions. “Except for hearing, we can do everything,” he said. “I never thought about [breaking boundaries] because I don’t pay attention to those things. Firstly, we have to learn how to be self-confident, realizing that we, ourselves, are not perfect. Why should we care what others think?” Robinson and other deaf streamers participating in silent streams ultimately hope that their content reminds viewers to put things in perspective. “There’s still a lot to be done to break down barriers in almost any industry,” he said. “People need to remember that deaf and hard-of-hearing people exist. We don’t just exist in movies or TV shows—or whatever. We are real, and we want to be part of the community.”
“Except for hearing, we can do everything.”