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Spark is committed to including captions on advertising and video content to improve digital inclusion

Spark New Zealand today announced its commitment to include closed captioning on its audio-visual assets, including television and digital advertisements, social media video content and internal videos, to make them more accessible to more 800,000 New Zealanders who identify as hard and deaf. audience[1].

The decision was inspired by a speech given by 16-year-old Hope Cotton at Spark’s “ALL IN” digital equity event, held in July. Hope, who is deaf, has been a strong advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing community who face significant challenges in accessing information, entertainment and education due to a lack of accessibility on digital channels.

Jolie Hodson, CEO of Spark, says: “Our goal at Spark is to help all of New Zealand win big in a digital world, but that’s not possible if some of us can’t benefit from the access to technology in the same way that the rest of us take for granted.

“We have a long-term focus on improving digital equity in Aotearoa and have made significant progress improving access and affordability through our non-profit Skinny Jump broadband service and through investments we make in the community through the Spark Foundation. But we want to do more, and we know that when our people are empowered to make change, we can do amazing things – and so we gathered nearly 2,000 Spark people at our ALL IN event to learn more about the problem and to brainstorm new ideas. ways Spark could make a difference.

“We had six amazing rangatahi who came to speak to us at this event – young people who had experienced numerical inequality themselves and were doing something to address it. Hearing from Hope about how difficult it can be for her to study, enjoy a show or access key services, it was clear to us that we needed to up our game.

“Our commitment to include closed captions on Spark audio-visual content created from now on is just the first step in improving the accessibility of the products and services we create and the communications we offer. We know there is a wide range of accessibility issues that New Zealanders face, and we have further work underway to see how we can create more inclusive digital environments in the future.

Hope, who earlier this week presented a petition to Green MP Chloe Swarbrick in Parliament, is advocating for the government to make captioning compulsory and is delighted with Spark’s commitment.

“I am so honored to work with Spark to create a more equitable digital landscape in New Zealand,” said Hope.

“Spark’s decision to use closed captioning will make a real difference to nearly one million New Zealanders who are deaf, neurodivergent or hard of hearing. This decision means they are making themselves more accessible to all Kiwis. Every person deserves the same access to information, and this decision by Spark recognizes that.

“When I introduced Spark to so many of their people signing my petition, it was a game-changer. I hope my petition will encourage other organizations to make their services more accessible, lead to legislative changes and will help create tangible change in the lives of New Zealanders with disabilities.

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