Facebook just got a little more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing users.
The social media giant is adding closed captioning capabilities to its Live product, USA Today reported Tuesday, allowing viewers to see automatically generated captions on broadcasts that show up in their News Feeds. To see the captions, both publishers and viewers need to activate the setting.
It's a welcome addition to Facebook, which has already offered automatic closed captioning on regular videos and advertisements for a few years. When Live launched in 2016, some deaf and hard of hearing users noted the lack of captioning, which rendered the videos inaccessible.
More than 5 percent of the world's population — or about 360 million people — are deaf or hard of hearing. While Facebook's new effort likely has at least some commercial interests behind it (captioning could also draw in more viewers wanting to watch videos on mute), it certainly allows for deaf users to more fully experience videos on the platform.
It also helps broaden publishers' audiences, and could push them to make their content more inclusive. FCC rules and guidelines for captioning exist for TV, but not for online media like Facebook and YouTube unless it's also broadcast on TV in the U.S. Nevertheless, Facebook's new feature will support the CEA-608 closed caption standard for broadcasters.