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The NHL claims hockey is for everyone, but there is still work to be done. One of the many ways the NHL continues to fall short is with social media accessibility. This issue is most prominent on Twitter, which has built-in tools for alt text and captions. To look at the issue across the NHL, Hockey of Tomorrow conducted surveys to determine how much each team uses these features.
A wide range of people use captions, from those who are Deaf to those with auditory processing disorders to those with full hearing who can’t listen to sound at that moment. The usage of captions makes video content equally accessible to all. Twitter allows users to embed captions into their videos by uploading an SRT (secured reliable transport) file with their video.
If they don’t want to create an SRT file, users can use outside software to lay captions over the video before attaching it to a tweet. These few extra steps are essential for ensuring equal access for all, yet no NHL teams consistently take them. Below you’ll find a survey of each NHL Western Conference team’s use of captions in their video content containing sound (minus game-day graphics) on Twitter over a two-week period in March 2023.
The Seattle Kraken were the best, using captions in 47% of their videos, while two teams never used captions.
Western Conference NHL teams used captions slightly more than Eastern Conference teams.
The Vancouver Canucks were unusual. If they attempted to caption a video, they did not caption it completely. Often, they would caption the primary speaker but then nothing else. This is unacceptable.
If you are going to attempt to caption a video, it must be done completely or it is not accessible. Only partially captioning the video can lead to significant frustration for people who need them.
Of the 14 teams that used captions, none consistently captioned replays containing play-by-play. Some did it sporadically. Play-by-play is perhaps the easiest video to caption. All TV networks have closed captioning available, so teams could make a deal with broadcast companies to use the captions as well as the video. They already have the right to use the broadcasted video, so it is not a stretch to think they could obtain the rights to the captions as well.
The Kraken captioned almost everything except for game content (such as warmups and replays). Meanwhile, the Kings and Predators were good at captioning interviews, but not other content.
Just like the Eastern Conference, no NHL Western Conference team consistently used captions across all their video content on Twitter. Just because the Western Conference was slightly better does not mean they were good. As a whole, their usage was still unacceptable.
Until these NHL teams make a conscious effort to do better, their inclusivity claims will ring hollow in many ears.
The rush to be first and push content out as quickly as possible is no excuse for cutting corners on accessibility. Yes, adding captions would delay content slightly.
However, the few eyes you may lose by taking an extra minute or two to caption content can be made up for in the people you’ll gain by making content accessible. It is well worth the time and effort. Until teams decide this, hockey cannot be for everyone.