Creating accessible videos

Video produced by the University of Washington should include closed captions. Captions on video provide many benefits. They are essential for ensuring your video is accessible to students, employees, and members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing. They also help non-native English speakers to understand the video, make it possible to search for content within the video, and make it possible to generate an interactive transcript where users can click anywhere in the transcript to watch the video where that text is spoken.

How to caption video at the UW

  • Outsource. The UW has a contract with Automatic Sync Technologies to provide captioning services to the UW. See Captioning UW video with CaptionSync for additional information.
  • Do it yourself.  There are free tools available online that make it possible and easy to caption your own video. See Captioning your own video for free for additional information.

The end product generated by both options is a caption file. Most caption files are plain text files with time codes indicating the start and stop times. However, there are various types of caption files with slight variations in their syntax. The type of file you need depends on how your video is ultimately being provided. See the following section for links to pages that include this information.

How to add caption files to video

After you have a caption file, the final step is to add this file to your video. How you do this depends on where your video is hosted. Select one of the following options:

Note: It is important to host videos in a format or location that supports captions. Some media players and video hosting providers do not support captions at all. For example, as of January 2014 Vimeo does not support captions and should therefore not be used to host UW videos.

How to add audio description to video

Individuals who are blind can understand much of a video’s content by listening to its audio. However, if a video includes content that is only presented visually (e.g., on-screen text or key actions that are not obvious from the audio) this visual information must be described in order to be accessible to people who are unable to see it.

There are various approaches to adding audio description to video. Currently the most common approach is to hire a company that specializes in describing video. Typically they will produce a new video that has the descriptive narration mixed in with the program audio. Then you can provide your video in two formats: One with audio description and one without.

The American Council of the Blind has compiled a comprehensive list of commercial services for producing audio description.

Supplementing video with a transcript

It is important to provide a transcript to accompany your video. This makes the content of the video accessible to individuals who are deaf/blind, who can’t easily access closed captions (e.g., using a Braille output device) as well as to others who are unable to view the video due to technical limitations such as a low bandwidth Internet connection.

Transcripts are also helpful for people who want to quickly scan or search the video’s content but don’t have the time to watch the entire video.

A transcript is available as one of the optional output formats produced by the closed captioning process. To make the transcript available simply link to it from your web page, wherever you link to or display the associated video.

Choosing an accessible media player

When choosing how to deliver your video, it is important to consider options that are fully accessible. Whether you are selecting a media player plugin or module for your website or selecting a service to host your videos, the following questions should be answered about the available options:

  1. Does the media player support closed captions?
  2. Can the media player’s buttons and controls be operated without a mouse in multiple browsers?
  3. Are the media player’s buttons and controls properly labeled so they can be operated by a blind person using a screen reader?


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