Marlee Matlin: Xbox One Opened a New Gateway to Closed Captioned Movies and TV

This blog post was written by Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who has appeared in more than 30 films and television shows, including “Children of A Lesser God,” “The West Wing,” and “Switched at Birth.” She was instrumental in getting legislation passed that required closed captioning for broadcast and broadband content and was recently honored by President Barack Obama for her advocacy work on behalf of the deaf community.em>


During the holidays, my kids were practically begging me for an Xbox One, but I couldn’t find a console anywhere, not at the mall or online. Luckily, I found one just in time and everyone was happy.

I don’t play video games, so I originally thought our Xbox One was destined to host marathon FIFA 14 soccer and Madden NFL football games among my four children. But then I learned I could watch closed captioned movies and television shows, connect with friends over Skype and surf the web on our new console.

Once those FIFA games were over, I was looking forward to watching my favorite shows – “Orange is the New Black” and “Girls” – with closed captioning through Netflix and HBO on our Xbox. When I lobbied Congress nearly 30 years ago and helped win closed captioning on television, who would have thought that one day we would use a gaming console to watch TV shows?

But, times have changed a lot since then. Today, people watch TV shows on their smart phones, stream movies through their laptops, and check out YouTube videos on their desktop computers.

This fragmented digital world is one of the biggest barriers to bringing closed captioned programming to deaf and hard of hearing viewers. Who should be responsible for closed captioning on all of these new distribution channels? 

Everyone should be able to watch TV shows and movies on their phones, tablets and computers, and that means including closed captions. At the same time I worry that access for deaf and hard of hearing users is going out the window in our expanding digital universe.

I thought about this as my kids played FIFA and Forza on our new Xbox One, and then it dawned on me that Xbox brings together some of these fragments, such as gaming, TV shows, Skype, online music and YouTube.

I’m excited that all of this media is coming through one platform, Xbox One. I may not have used all of Xbox’s accessibility tools yet, but trust me I’ll be learning more about Skype and Kinect. After fighting for closed captioned access for three decades, it’s my responsibility to get ahead of the technology curve.

I am also glad Microsoft has invested so much into making the Xbox accessible.

Right now, though, I’m looking forward to watching the new season of “Orange is the New Black” through my Xbox One.


You Can follow Marlee on Twitter: @MarleeMatlin