Improving Accessibility Through Video Captions

Have you noticed that captions (a.k.a. subtitles) in social media videos have become more common? Captioning videos has historically been used in e-learning to improve accessibility for learners with hearing impairments. Beyond accessibility, evidence is emerging that captions improve engagement and comprehension (hence why you are seeing more videos with captions on Facebook). In short, there are compelling reasons to add captions to educational videos.

Video Closed Captions

Developers can use e-learning software such as Camtasia and Storyline to add captions to videos and courses. Many tools include built-in editors which allow you to import / create and sync captions with the spoken narrative. For a 2-minute video this isn’t time-intensive, but for longer videos it can be a time investment.

We just completed a project using YouTube’s built-in captioning feature and were amazed at how quick and easy it was. Here’s how it works:

  • Upload Video – Upload your video to YouTube, making sure to select the video’s language (this is necessary for the translation to start).
  • Enable Captions – A few minutes after the video uploads, you enable captions in your Video Manager. The system transcribes the narration, along with the timing of when words display.
  • Edit the Transcribed Narration –  The transcribed narration isn’t perfect, so you may need to edit certain words, punctuation, or acronyms. Some things we had to adjust were:
    • Editing the uppercase first letter of sentences and adding periods at end.
    • Modifying less-well-known acronyms (for example, the acronym IRWE, pronounced “erwee”, was transcribed as “early”).
YouTube’s Caption Editor

What really shined most was the automated transcription: it was the highest quality and most efficient we’ve ever experienced. We hardly noticed the time it took to make the minor edits. Further, you can download the transcription file for further use (such as creating a printable transcript). Most importantly, these videos are accessible by learners with hearing impairments.

Captioning videos is just one way to increase the accessibility of learning materials to learners who have visual or hearing impairments. Accessibility in e-learning goes beyond captions, though. It includes using descriptive or alt text for images and tables, using PDFs that are searchable, and choosing appropriate fonts and colors.

Thankfully, e-learning development tools continue to enhance features that enable accessibility. Given the benefits of improved accessibility and engagement, captioning your next video project is well worth the time!

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