Today’s video editors are keenly aware that they must make their content accessible to all. The reason? They want to provide a broader audience with the means to fully understand and enjoy what they’ve created. To do this, video editors usually provide their audiences with either subtitles or closed captions.

Hopefully you are already familiar with the key differences between subtitles and closed captions (CC):

Subtitles assume that the viewer can hear but either doesn’t understand the language spoken or has turned off the sound for convenience. Subtitles provide a word for word text transcription of what is being spoken in a video.  Subtitles don’t, however, include non-speech sounds like laughter and yelling. Because of this, subtitles are not considered an appropriate accommodation for deaf and hard of hearing viewers.

Closed captions (CC), on the other hand, assume that the viewer cannot hear. They are usually in the same language as the video and are generally intended for viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing.  Unlike subtitles, they provide text for all audible information. For example, closed captions will note applause, music, slamming doors, etc. Closed captions may also include speaker names if necessary. The text is also usually white on a black background and the placement can vary.

A third option to make videos more accessible is SDH subtitles.  

Before your head starts to swirl off its axis, let us explain the key difference between SDH subtitles and why your video should have them.

What are SDH subtitles?

SDH subtitles are a hybrid of subtitles and closed captions that were developed for the Deaf and hard of hearing community. The acronym SDH stands for Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

SDH subtitles provide a text transcription in the same language as the spoken dialogue, with additional text annotation of environmental sounds and music. SDH subtitling provides better comprehension of the video content for those who cannot understand the spoken dialogue or have problems understanding the accents.

SDH Subtitles also differ from subtitles and closed captions in their appearance, placement and encoding.

SDH subtitles differ from closed captions in that they can appear in a variety of font sizes, styles and colours, like traditional subtitles. All important elements to consider when adding SDH subtitles.  Also, unlike closed captions, SDH subtitles usually appear centred in the lower bottom third of the screen. Additionally, you are able to use SDH subtitles on a wider variety of media types, such as streaming internet videos and Blu Ray DVDS.  This is because SDH subtitles support encoding through HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface). Closed Captions do not support HDMI encoding.

A final key difference is that closed closed captions often lag behind what is said on the screen, whereas SDH subtitles will appear on the screen synchronised  to the audio on screen.

Why Should You Include SDH Subtitles?

Now that we know the difference between subtitles, closed captions and SDH subtitles, let’s discuss why SDH subtitles should be included in all of your videos.

Increased Viewership:

The main reason to include SDH subtitles is to ensure that your content is can be accessed by as many people as possible.  Without SDH Subtitles, over 460 million people around the world that are deaf or hard of hearing wouldn’t be able to engage with your video content.

SDH subtitles also provide a way for non-native language speakers to engage with your content, as it provides a way for them to convert the text language provided into their chosen language.

Opening up your content for these two groups can greatly increase the viewership of your videos.

Better Comprehension:

SDH subtitles can also help listeners understand speakers with thick accents or fast speech.

Additionally, SDH subtitles can help a viewer who has the audio muted capture the full ambience of the video by noting non-verbal sounds.

Furthermore, SDH subtitles can also help keep viewers with attention deficit disorders stay focused on the video.

By providing the text transcript for the spoken parts of the video as well as the other audio sounds, SDH subtitles can help individuals in all of the above situations better comprehend the message in your video.

Avoid Lawsuits:

High-profile civil rights lawsuits against companies and institutions that fail to make their video content accessible are on the rise, particularly in the US.

One of the most notable cases involves Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  In 2015, the National Association of the Deaf filed a lawsuit against these two institutions for failing to make their online courses, guest lectures, and other video content accessible to people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.  The case is still ongoing and has now reached the federal court system.

By incorporating SDH subtitles into your video content now, you can help avoid similar lawsuits in the future.


Whilst subtitles and closed captions help with accessibility, SDH subtitles undoubtedly provide the best solution for ensuring that your video content can be accessed by the largest proportion of the Internet population.

It you need help obtaining SDH subtitles for your video, please feel free to contact us at Happy Scribe.