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As the bushfire crisis unfolded in late 2019 and into 2020, the Centre for Inclusive Design in Sydney received questions and complaints about messages sent via broadcast, print and online mediums.

In response, it created the following guide as a resource for people to communicate inclusively in times of emergency.   

It’s particularly important to think about inclusive communication, that is information provided with consideration for people with different needs. Effective, accessible communication is critical and can help save lives. 

Given that we’re talking about broadcast and social media, this guide focused on three key areas, hearing, language and vision. 

Communication when hearing is an issue 

Auslan interpretation 

Almost 20,000 people use Auslan to communicate every day and it is the main language for over 5,000 Australians.

During television broadcasts, an Auslan interpreter should always be visible on screen. Avoid close up camera shots which crop out the interpreter or pop up graphics which block their visibility. If the interpreter is not clearly shown on screen, no information is being conveyed.  

You can book Auslan interpreters by state and through various agencies (just do a web search for Auslan and your state) or use a national service.

If you are on the ground in one of the affected areas, learning some key Auslan phrases may be useful. In this video, Auslan interpreter Hadley Johnson demonstrates some basic signs useful for emergencies.

Video captioning 

1 in 6 Australians experience hearing loss and over 1 million Australians require captioning to understand videos.  

Video captioning not only benefits those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, but reaffirms the information being communicated in a written form, aiding in comprehension and memory retention. Captioning also allows videos to be watched without sound, which is particularly important for noisy environments. 

Below are some captioning tools which you can use. Automatic captioning tools are quick and easy to use. However, they are not always accurate and manual corrections may be required. 

Do it yourself captioning 

For social media/emergency videos, captioning may be required at short notice. These are captioning tools which you can use yourself, on smartphones or computers. 

  • Youtube generates captions for an uploaded video. Here is a guide to using them.
  • Apple Clips– live video captioning while you record (Free on App store) 
  • Zubtitle– generates captions for an uploaded video (This is a paid product) 
  • Closed Caption Creator– generates captions for an uploaded video (This is paid product) 
  • Amara– manual captioning (This is a free product) 

Captioning service providers 

These are professional captioning services who have worked with major media outlets. 

Auslan interpreter vs captioning 

Auslan and English contain different structures and syntax for sentences and so, reading captions may be difficult for Auslan viewers to understand. It is recommended that both captioning, and Auslan interpretation is provided. 

Communicating when language is an issue 

Plain English 

Use of simple, plain language is not only a requirement for people who experience an intellectual or cognitive disability to best understand information but vital in emergency scenarios. Keep your messaging clear and concise for effective communication. Jargon and abbreviations should also be avoided. 

Key communications should also be repeated to ensure that your message is conveyed. 

Free online translation tools 

Here are some online resources that can be used to translate phrases for written forms of communication.  

Professional Translation services 

Longer messages translated by tools may contain grammatical and syntax errors when translated and so, we recommend using a professional translation service for longer written and video forms of communication. 

Contact the Centre for Inclusive Design if you have any suggestions 

If anyone has suggestions for improving accessible communications and/or recommendations for accessibility tools, contact the Centre for Inclusive Design on  Tel: 02 9212 6242.

To learn more about communication when vision is an issue and about Multilingual translations, read the full article at


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