This morning, TikTok announced the launch of a new feature designed to make the app accessible to people with hearing impairments or deafness. The company debuts today with automatic captioning – a feature that, when activated, automatically transcribes speech from a video so viewers can read what is being said in the video as an alternative to listening. Originally, automatic captions will support American English and Japanese, with more languages in the months ahead, says TikTok.
To use automatic captioning, the creator selects the option on the editing page after they have either uploaded or recorded a video. They can then edit the text generated to correct any errors before the video is published.
Although largely designed for accessibility purposes, automatic captioning can also help those who want to watch TikTok videos without sound – for example, when you are around other people, you do not want to disturb, but lack headphones. They can also be useful for those who watch videos where they do not speak fluently, as it is sometimes easier to understand what is being said when you can also read the words.
Already, many in the TikTok community had taken lyrics by adding captions to their videos or using third-party subtitle tools. The text-to-speech trend, where text on the screen is read with a Siri-like voice, has continued to be a popular technique among creators.
But the auto-subtitle tool works differently from existing options because it can be turned on and off by the viewer. That means you do not have to watch the video headlines if you do not want to. To turn off the captions, first open the sharing panel and then tap the caption to deactivate them.
With the launch of automatic captions, TikTok joins other social apps such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, which already offer tools that allow creators to easily and automatically add captions to videos.
TikTok says it will work to spread the word among creators’ communities about the new grant to encourage users to make their videos available to a wider audience.
Auto Caption is now one of several accessibility features launched by TikTok, along with creator alerts when producing videos that can trigger photosensitive epilepsy and a photosensitivity feature that lets users skip photosensitive content. The app also offers a text-to-speech feature and a feature to replace animated thumbnails with static images.
TikTok says that it is currently undergoing an accessibility assessment to identify several areas for improvement as well, and has worked with the organization The Deaf Collective to raise awareness about the talent and conversations that take place in deaf communities on the app.