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Captions turn what is said in a movie, lecture, entertainment event or telephone call into written text. The captions are then shown on a screen or device so you can read what is being said. Captions benefit many people, not just people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing. They provide access to information in noisy rooms or during fast-paced speeches, help children learning to read and others building their English language skills, and allow people to watch content with the sound off. Here are the different types of captions available. 

Closed captioning

  • Captions require a closed-caption decoder or decoder chip built into the TV.
  • To turn on closed captions on your TV, check the owner’s manual for instructions.
  • To turn on closed captions for a DVD, look for “Subtitles for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing” (or SDH) in the subtitles menu.
  • To access closed captions in a movie theater, ask the theater staff for a decoder device.
  • To access closed captions for online content, such as TED Talks and YouTube videos, look for the letters CC or a callout box to enable the captions. 

Open captioning

  • Captions are a permanent part of the picture and are visible to everyone, all the time.
  • No need to use a decoder or turn on the captions.

Real time captioning

  • Captions are prepared and transmitted by trained real-time captioners at the same time the event is happening.
  • Commonly used for live entertainment events (such as plays), lectures, conferences and classes.
  • This type of captioning service, called CART, often needs to be requested by an individual attending the event.
  • Depending on the event, you might view the captions on a screen, or access the captions through your own smartphone, tablet or computer. 
  • Read more about Communication Access Real Time Captioning (CART)

Captioned telephone

  • If you are hard of hearing and enjoy the benefits of captions while watching television, movies or other captioned content, you might enjoy using a captioned telephone. By using a captioned phone you can speak and listen to the other party. At the same time you can read captions of what the other party is saying on the telephone’s display screen.
  • Captioned calls are made through a relay service. There is no charge to place a call through a relay service.  
  • Captioned telephone apps are available that can be downloaded to your smartphone.
  • The Telephone Equipment Distribution Program provides captioned telephones at no cost to Minnesotans who qualify.

Find out where to buy captioned telephones:

Captioning apps

You can learn more about a wide variety of apps available for smartphones and tablets at the following links.




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