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#DeafTok: a community worth celebrating

If you have teenagers in your life (or if you just love scrolling through endlessly entertaining content), you’re familiar with TikTok. It’s all about short, snappy video clips: think skits, lip-syncing and dancing. But like many social media apps, it was long not particularly friendly to deaf and hard-of-hearing users. 

“Deaf influencer” Scarlet Waters has previously decried how little of the digital world is deaf-friendly. “The most popular apps are not accessible to us: YouTube does automatic closed captions, [but they’re] not correct and the words will be all over the place. Instagram does not provide closed captions, so think of all the educational videos you guys see. We miss out on the important events daily. TikTok, the most popular app out right now, has nothing!” 

That changed in April 2021, when TikTok added an auto caption feature that caters to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. A year later, the app’s deaf community has flourished, and videos with the #DeafTok hashtag have clocked up more than a billion views. 

We love how creators are using the hashtag to raise awareness about accessibility issues, sharing information about life as a deaf person, and educating viewers on interacting with deaf people. 

Waters now has over five million followers. She posts everything from powerful advocacy videos showing how difficult it is to be waved off as a deaf person in a hearing world, to cute “ASL covers” — using American Sign Language to sign along to song lyrics while lip-syncing. 

Creators are also able to edit the transcript for better accuracy. Users have the option to turn the captions on and off.  

The feature is only available in American English and Japanese but TikTok says additional language support will be available in the coming months.

It’s a great step in the right direction. 🙌

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 21 April  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.

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