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TV Viewers With Hearing Loss Rely on Subtitles - That's Why I'm Calling on Sky to Offer Them

28/04/2016 15:26 | Updated 06 May 2016

From September, Sky will begin the ramp up of subtitled Sky on demand content, working towards a target of at least 80 per cent. All of this content, including great Sky series box sets, as well as some of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, this will be available on both Sky+ and the brand new Sky Q set top box.

And now it will launch subtitles on its content by the end of the year, and also on the Sky Go and Sky Q apps soon after in 2017, meaning that subtitles will be available on demand for Sky content, whether you watch Sky TV at home or on the go.

Back in 2010, Sky, the UK's biggest subscription TV service brought out an On Demand service called Sky Anytime+. This was good news for all of Sky's TV customers as it meant you could download TV programmes and watch them anytime you liked, this was good especially if you missed it and forgot to record it. It was then discovered that the vast majority didn't have any accessibility features such as subtitles.

Over the years Sky have continually said that they had no plans to introduce subtitles or that they were looking into it, it was essentially excuse after excuse. It finally took its toll and I decided to set up a petition on Change.org calling Sky to improve their On Demand service as well as other services across the board including Sky Go, Now TV and Sky Box Sets.

All of Sky's content whether it is online, apps or on Sky boxes, it is all inaccessible, apart from the linear programming which is normal TV programming via satellite. One of the most popular apps, BBC iPlayer is not subtitled on Sky's own platform despite subtitles being available on other platforms such as Virgin Media and YouView.

The aim of setting up my petition was to raise awareness of the situation which I have been facing now for about six years and that we are still receiving an unacceptable service, despite paying the same prices as a customer who can benefit from the additional services. As the petition grew by receiving support from family and friends, it reached the campaigners who had successfully campaigned to get Amazon to subtitle their TV service.

My petition was then brought to the attention of Action on Hearing Loss, who as a result I've been working closely with and the supporter base grew and grew. Until it finally got the attention of Sky's development team and in July last year they invited me, along with Action on Hearing Loss, to their office to discuss their plans to make On Demand more accessible. They also announced their decision to start subtitling the "most popular and best" of On Demand content from Summer 2016,

It is good to see they're attempting to do this and hope that Sky will stick to their promises. It is rather unfortunate that the progress has taken this long since On Demand came out many years ago and Sky were aware of the issue.

The issue is very important to me as it means I am heavily restricted to what I can enjoy what Sky TV offer me. It means that I can't take up watching Sky Go on my iPad when I'm out and about, use Now TV at my Dad's house or catch up on shows that I may have missed, especially on Sky channels as once you've missed it, you have to hope that there will be a repeat, otherwise you are stuck.

It is also important to me because why should people who use subtitles be left out, in this modern age it should be the norm for all online content to have subtitles, including Sky's services. Anything that is broadcasted on television that has subtitles surely can be viewed in other forms with a subtitles option, if Netflix and Amazon can do it, why not Sky and NowTV (also run by Sky). Due to the lack of subtitles, it can lead to a difficulty in social gatherings, this could be talking about the programme and I would be feeling left out.

Having subtitles across all On Demand content and other online content is a big must. As we are moving into a more digital futuristic world, it concerns me that if there are no subtitles then more people could be left out. I recently found out that in America, anything that is broadcasted on television and is later uploaded online, must have subtitles so that people can access it. Why can't we be more like America in this situation? I feel that once we've got Sky to introduce a more accessible service, maybe others would follow suit.

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