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Give Deaf People Access To Subtitles On Every TV Show

This petition had 2,431 supporters

Most of us know that subtitles are available on the telly. What you may not know is that once you switch them on, they are not on every channel or program, and when they are - they are often so bad it is impossible to follow.

Imagine a TV channel where the sound came and went, was missing half the time or worse - was never there at all! It would soon lose it's license, yet that is exactly what deaf and hard of hearing people experience with subtitles on a daily basis!

My 86-year old Mum gradually lost her hearing over the past 16 years. Television is her main source of entertainment and connection to the outside world.

Here in the UK, aside from BBC 1 and BBC 2, ITV 1 and Channel 4 there is a lack of subtitles, including intermittent or poor quality subtitles on other channels. Even the 'major' Channel 5 is hit and miss, with subtitles being totally absent from Mum's favourite, The Wright Stuff, which she depends upon most days for news and current affairs.

Today she started watching a good drama on ITV 3 and there were no subtitles available. Many of her favourite shows are on Alibi and there are rarely any subtitles. On other channels such as Universal subtitles are present, but only reflect a third of what is actually being said, leaving the audience to guess at what is happening. They are not available at all on catch-up or pay per view.

When Mum cannot follow the dialogue or storyline she becomes visibly withdrawn and loses interest. It is heartbreaking to see her gradually withdraw into herself, as she finds fewer and fewer channels that she can fully enjoy with reliable subtitles. The outside world is gradually becoming less accessible to her, and there are few channels that we can enjoy together. And she is not alone...

According to the UK charity, Action on Hearing Loss:

  • There are more than 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, or one in six of the population.
  • By 2035, it is estimated that there will be 15.6 million people with hearing loss in the UK - that's one in five.
  • More than 900,000 people in the UK are severely or profoundly deaf.
  • There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK, plus many more who experience temporary hearing loss.
  • More than 70% of over 70 years-old and 40% of over 50 years-old have some kind of hearing loss.


Equal access to information, education, and entertainment is essential to maintaining quality of life and to reduce the sense of exclusion and isolation that can be felt by people with impaired hearing, particularly elderly people. Part-time, intermittent and absent subtitles do NOT constitute 'equal access'.

It has been estimated that there are over 480 television channels available in the UK*, only a handful of which provide high quality subtitles for every program. Clearly TV broadcasters cannot be left to their own initiative to provide reliable closed captioning, otherwise it would already be standard across the board.

Television is not a luxury, it is a part of normal life, a source of information, news and education, and a vital lifeline for many people.


This petition calls on the Government and OFCOM to make high quality closed captioning (subtitles) accessible on ALL programs, across all channels (on digital terrestrial, satellite, cable, and internet protocol television/ IPTV, including catch-up and pay per view services), as an ongoing broadcast industry standard.

It is now time to ensure that deaf and hearing impaired people have full and equal ongoing access to the full range of high quality television programming.

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Ruth Hadikin needs your help with “Sharon White: Give Deaf People Access To Subtitles On Every TV Show”. Join Ruth and 2,430 supporters today.