Video Captions

What are video captions? 

Video captions are synchronized text description of the speech and non-speech information needed to understand the content of the video. 

Types of Video Text Description

We will briefly go over the types of text descriptions that are usually embedded in the media and their differences. 

  • Closed Captions: Closed captions can be turned on and off.  
  • Open Captions: Open captions are burned into the video and cannot be turned off. 
  • Live Captions: Live captions are done by a professional transcriber during live events 
  • Subtitles: Subtitles are translations for people who don't speak the language of the video. Subtitles assume the viewer hears the audio.
  • Autogenerated/Automated Captions: Autogenerated captions are use voice recognition to create captions live. They are not ADA compliant because of spelling and punctuation errors.

When we talk about accessible video captions, we will be working with closed captions. 

Why do I need video captions? 

Captions help people who are hard of hearing, have cognitive impairment, and whose native language isn't the language of the audio access the visual and auditory information in text format.

Having captions can also provide additional benefits outside of fulfilling accessibility needs. They become helpful for when viewers can't hear the sound because of a noisy (or silent) environment. For some people, reading content can be easier and quicker than watching the video. Also, if you publish the video online, the content in text form (such as caption files and transcripts) can improve SEO by helping search engines index the video better.

How to caption videos

Creating captions requires audio transcription and formatting the text with timestamps. 

Best Practices for Captioning 

To be ADA compliant:

  • 99% Accurate: Captions must be at least 99% accurate, which means no more than 1.5 errors in words per minute. 
  • [Sound Effects]: Captions should include sound effects for context and put in brackets 
  • Lyrics: If there is music, add lyrics
  • (Speaker ID): Add speaker ID in parentheses when needed such as for off-screen identification 
  • Slang and Grammatical Errors: Do not rewrite or paraphrase dialogue. 
  • Synchronous: Creating captions requires audio transcription and formatting the text with timestamps. 

There is a more comprehensive checklist linked at the bottom of this page that you can use to help guide you through properly captioning your videos. 

Online Captioning Platforms

Some platforms can create automatic captions that are a great starting point. Automatic captions required editing for accuracy.

There are a few free platforms that can be used for captioning that is available to you as University employees: 

  • (if you do not own the Youtube video) 
  • Kaltura/Mediaspace
  • Powerpoint/Streams
  • Youtube (if you do own the Youtube video) 

Resources and Training

Self-paced course from DRES: How to Caption

Video Captioning Checklist: Cielo24's "The 99% Captioning Compliance Checklist"