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CC and SDH – What’s the Difference?

An iPad showing a scene from the Fitch with Tom Hanks in a helmet. A dropdown shows subtitles in different languages.

I watched Finch the movie on Apple TV last week. It was excellent and I would highly recommended you to watch it.

Speaking of accessibility, however, it’s very confusing when it comes to using options for captions and subtitles on Apple.

The photo above shows a list of subtitles in many languages labeled as SDH. Each languge has SDH. While English has both options – CC and SDH.

Subtitles dropdown on Apple TV platform. It has SDH to each language except for English. English has 2 options for CC and SDH. There's also an option for auto (recommended).

CC means closed captions and the word came from TV industry. It’s access for deaf and hard of hearing people.

SDH means subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing and the word came from DVD industry. It’s also access for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Both CC and SDH are same in content. The only difference are in techical settings for TV and DVD. 

Since the movie is online, I do not understand why Apple gives two options for same language access to deaf in English instead of one. It causes more confusion, especially to those who are not well versed in captioning and subtitling.

When testing both English CC and English SDH on Apple, both has the same content since text is intended as access to audio for deaf and hard of hearing people.

To make matters worse, the list also has auto captions and says it’s “recommended”! Really??

Auto captions are NOT the best accessibility practice.

Now compare with another screenshot of some other movie on another video platform – Netflix, for example.

Screenshot of Netflix options for audio (German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, English audio description) and subtitles (Spanish, French, Simplified and Traditional Chinese). For English, it has [original] for audio and [CC] for subtitles.

It lists audio in different languages and subtitles in different languages. Since original audio is in English, they add CC to English, but don’t repeat SDH for other languages. 

Like with Apple options, Netflix options also need some improvement, but at least they are more clear and don’t include an option for auto captions, let alone saying it’s “recommended.”

When providing speech to text access on video platforms, it’s best to indicate the original language for audio, to specify CC for the original language, and to make sure that subtitles in other languages are fully accessible to deaf people.

There’s still a lack of awareness about the difference between captions and subtitles, between different types of captioning access, and why subtitles are not fully accessible to deaf people.

To learn more about this issue in detail, check out my article about the difference between captions and subtitles and why subtitles in other languages need to be 100% accessible to deaf people.


Does your business need further consulting on optimal captioning access for your media and events? Send me a message.

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