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TikTok’s latest addition might be its best accessibility feature yet

Published Apr 6th, 2021 7:20PM EDT
TikTok auto captions
Image: TikTok

TikTok is going to start giving its users the ability to add automatically generated subtitles on their videos in an attempt to foster a more inclusive community. The company refers to the future feature as “auto captions,” and creators will see them on the editing page after they’ve uploaded or recorded a video in the app. If you tap the button to turn them on, the captions will automatically be generated beneath the video. At that point, you will have the option to edit them to ensure that they are accurate before you publish the video.

When a creator opts to add auto captions to the video, they will appear on the video unless the viewer actively decides to turn them off. If you don’t want to see the captions, you can open the share panel, tap the captions button, and set the captions to off. It’s just one extra step, but it opens TikTok up to a whole new group.

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TikTok says that initially, the feature will only be available in American English and Japanese, but more languages will be supported by the feature “in the coming months.” TikTok is already working with creators on its platform to spread the word about auto captions, and hopes that everyone will take advantage of the feature.

“Our goal at TikTok is to be accessible to all people, and we’re committed to doing the work long-term,” says Stephanie Hind, Manager, Creator Management and Operations, TikTok US. “We’re currently undertaking an accessibility assessment to identify additional areas for improvement, and we’re increasing our outreach to organizations and communities with disabilities on TikTok to uplift their voices and make changes that better serve us all. By working with organizations like The Deaf Collective, we aim to increase awareness towards the range of diversity, talent, and conversations being had in Deaf communities.”

This is just one of several accessibility improvements that TikTok has made to its app in recent months. TikTok gave users the ability to turn animated thumbnails into static images, added a creator warning to let creators know when their videos might produce effects that could trigger photosensitive epilepsy, built a photosensitivity feature that lets viewers skip any content which may trigger them, and released a text-to-speech feature.

Automatic transcription has been around for years, but only recently has it become accurate enough to take over for a human. Plus, with the option to edit captions after they have been generated, you’ll only have to do a fraction of the work to clean up the words and phrases that TikTok wasn’t able to pick up during recording.

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Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.