Accessibility Hack #1: Captioning Online Video

This is a crosspost of Author: Glenda Watson

Meet Karen Putz – a deaf mom of three deaf and hard of hearing teenagers. Her husband is also deaf. On top of being a busy mom, Karen is a sales manager for videophones and relay services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. She is also an avid advocate for the deaf community, and a prolific writer and blogger where she shares her world as a deaf mom.

With more and more content being put online in the format of audio and video without captioning, Karen fears her children will become further excluded from society.

Karen and her family are not alone. According to the Gallaudet Research Institute’s analysis of the federal National Health Interview Survey, “more than 35,000,000 people (13%) report some degree of hearing trouble.” With an aging population, the number of Americans with some degree of hearing loss will only increase.

The federal Section 508 Standards, which mandates the accessibility of government websites, offers a solution. Subsection 1194.22 (b) states “Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.”

In plain English, this means videos and other multimedia presentations (i.e. Flash) must be captioned. Similarly, transcripts must be provided for all audio files. This article focuses on video captioning.

Walk into almost any sports bar or bank with a television on and you will likely see text scrolling up from the bottom of the screen. This text or captioning captures any words spoken or noises heard.

Benefits of Captioning

Captioning benefits many groups, including:

  • Americans who are deaf or have hearing impairments;
  • Individuals who have turned their speakers off when working in an environment where noise may disturb others (e.g., in an office or library);
  • Individuals having difficulty understanding spoken language or accent; and

Individuals to those using computers with no sound card.

Captioning Tools

With current technology, many free or low-cost and easy-to-use tools are now available for captioning videos, including

  1. The National Center for Accessible Media’s Media Access Generator (MAGpie) is a free downloadable tool for captions and audio descriptions for video and other multimedia presentations.
  2. Video editing software, such TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio 6, has a built in captioning feature. By inputting the text and synchronizing it with the audio, the captions automatically appear either as an overlay or below the video.The video tutorial demonstrates how easily captions are added. (NOTE: Select “CC” on the bottom of the video player to view the captions.)
  3. YouTube also provides a way for adding captions and subtitles.
  4. The free online service Overstream makes captioning existing videos on YouTube, Google Video and other popular video sites possible.

When working from a script in creating the video, the captioning becomes that much easier because the spoken word already exists in text format. By making any necessary changes to text, based on the actual words spoken, the text is then copied into the captioning tool and synchronized with the audio. It truly is that simple!

The tools and technology exist for captioning videos. The choice to use them and, hence, to include Karen’s children and millions of other Americans in today’s online world is up to web and content developers.

Additional Resources

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Daniel Hudson

Thanks for stressing the point of Usability/Accessibility. Video Captions are a great way to show your audience that you care about their needs. This is also important for sharing content when audio is not available or turned off. I was talking about getting more mileage from current content efforts with colleagues a few days ago & video captions were a hot topic. Here are some other resources on video captions from @mashable

Thanks for sharing,
Daniel Hudson

Scott Horvath

Great post Michael. I was going to mention the post I did as well but it look like Andrew beat me to it. Actually there’s something very cool about being able to create accessible video. It’s actually kind of nice knowing you can do it, but also that potentially millions of others can enjoy it too.