Captioning Parties: A Promising Practice in Building a Captioning Community

Date Updated
4/29/19

Video presentations need captions in order for the content to be accessible to students, employees, and other potential viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captioning also benefits individuals whose first language is not the primary language used in the video, people who need to see the spelling of words used in the video, and those who wish to search through a collection of videos for specific content. An engaging way to raise awareness within an organization and to quickly caption a collection of important videos, is to host a captioning party.

Western Washington University (WWU) piloted this approach in September of 2015. Invitations were sent to a select group of individuals who were involved in video production or distribution, and were interested in spreading the word among people who might be interested. Coffee and sandwiches were provided to participants, contributing to a relaxed setting. Laptops and headphones were provided for those who did not bring their own.

A brief training session was provided since many of the participants had never captioned video before. Participants learned how to caption YouTube videos, and to edit YouTube's automated captions using YouTube's own caption editor. They also learned how to use the free online website Amara to caption public videos, including those hosted on YouTube. Support was available throughout the event so people could ask questions and receive help. 

Most participants came with their own videos that needed captioning, but a pool of videos from the university's main YouTube channel were also available to anyone who needed a video to caption. If participants didn't own the video they were captioning, they were provided with contact information for the video owner so that they could send that person the final caption file as an email attachment. The owner of the main YouTube channel at WWU was standing by waiting for captions to arrive by email, and would upload those captions to YouTube once received.

The fifteen people who attended WWU’s captioning party captioned 22 videos during a 3-hour period. Upon conclusion of the event, several participants enthusiastically asked if there would be more captioning parties, and WWU is indeed planning to host more of these events in the future. Other universities, including the University of Washington, have organized similar events. 

By getting stakeholders together in a fun, collaborative environment, captioning parties can help raise awareness about the need for captioning, provide training to people on how to caption videos, produce results by captioning a few high priority videos, and build a community and culture of people who support each other in captioning videos and improving the institution's accessibility. For all these reasons, captioning parties are a promising practice in building a captioning community. 

For more information about the value of captioning, visit the videos Captions: Improving Access to Postsecondary Education and Captioning Lecture Capture Videos: A Promising Teaching Practice. Additional information including instructions for captioning videos can be found on the University of Washington's Creating Accessible Videos website. For more information about what to consider when making a video that is accessible to all viewers view the video Making Videos Accessible.