Video is one of the most popular content publishing formats. Many users find it more engaging and comfortable than reading lengthy online text. But most videos convey as much through audio components as visual ones—so it’s critical to accommodate people with hearing impairments. And that’s why closed caption videos are essential for digital accessibility, which is legally and ethically crucial for any business.  

Let’s start with the basic definition and history and move on to helpful tips and guidance. 

How Does Closed Captioning Work?

What is a closed caption, and what does it mean? Closed captioning, which isn’t a new concept, is the time-synchronized text that mirrors audio tracks in a given video. This text is superimposed on the bottom of the screen, helping end users with hearing disabilities read video content while watching the visual action. Adding closed captioning involves transcribing audio to text, splitting it into frames, and synchronizing the frames with the video.

A Note About Closed Caption Standards

In the early days of web accessibility, audio content transcripts were considered acceptable. However, transcripts are no longer adequate according to the World Wide Web Consortium’s accessibility guidelines and most accessibility experts.

It’s hardly a rewarding experience for users with hearing impairments to view video imagery while trying to follow a separate transcript. So, although offering a transcript is better than nothing, video captioning services are the accepted best practice. And, as you’ll read later, several shortcuts make adding closed captions much easier than before. 

What Not to Caption

Videos without audio, music or ambient noise don’t require meaningful captions. For example, you can add a note to a video description (outside of the player) for silent videos. Or, add a caption to the beginning that reads “Silent Throughout” or something similar.

Likewise, if a video has music, add a note or a caption that reads “Music Throughout.” Even better, you might add details to the alert that read “Dramatic Music,” “Upbeat Music,” etc. Another video example that doesn’t require significant captioning is a speech or presentation with a sign language interpreter visible in the frame.

Write Video Captions You Would Read

Creating quality closed captions isn’t mysterious. Correcting punctuation and capitalization (but avoiding all caps) is a good start. However, experts differ on how faithful to be to the audio content. For example, if a video depicts a performance with audience applause, that might be important enough to include in the captions. Typically, non-speech audio is enclosed in brackets of some kind (<applause> or {applause}).

You may, however, omit other ambient noises. For example, if you inadvertently record a webinar with a bird chirping incessantly at your office window, do you really want to include that sound? So, again, use common sense to decide what’s necessary for users with hearing disabilities. 

Design With Closed Caption in Mind

One of the biggest problems with closed captioning is also the easiest to avoid. Closed captions take up the bottom 10–15 percent of a screen. So, leave a blank space at the bottom if you’re shooting a video or designing slides for a webinar video. And avoid adding logos, copyright information, or other content in the bottom 10–15 percent because the superimposed closed captions will obscure that information.

Workflow Captioning Shortcuts

YouTube’s AI generates closed captions from a script and synchronizes them with the visual content. You’ll likely need to edit, but this tool does much of the heavy lifting. Alternatively, this AI generates auto-captions for uploaded videos. Unfortunately, they aren’t published automatically and need proofreading. 

You can still piggyback on YouTube’s technology if you don’t host your videos on YouTube or another hosting service. Upload your video, edit the automatically-generated captions, and download the finished captions file. Then, you can embed that caption file with the video file wherever you want to host it.

Read on for some helpful tips on adding closed captioning to videos. 

5 Tips for Providing Closed Captioning Services

1. Include Ambient Sounds

Don’t forget that certain noises are essential to the message. Music, clapping, laughing, sounds from the natural world, sound effects, etc., all contribute to the story.

2. Add Transcripts

Transcripts enable more users to access video content when they can’t use captions. 

3. Provide Transcript Time Codes

Accurate transcripts are vital to slashing costs for any internal dev team. In addition, they make it easier for captioners to nail down the synchronization, saving time and money.

4. Always Edit YouTube Captions

YouTube produces video auto-captions and transcripts, but you should always edit them to ensure accuracy before publishing.

5. Provide Live-Streaming Captions

Always include live closed captioning streaming for webinars, virtual events, or all other situations that provide live-video content.  

Summary: The Big Picture on Closed Caption Videos

Offering closed captioning services is just one vital element for ensuring digital accessibility. For example, this essential best practice makes it easier for people with hearing disabilities to comprehend and enjoy videos on the web. Nonetheless, it’s just one form of assistive technology addressing one of many disabilities. 

Of course, closed captioning is a critical step in the right direction, and finding the right digital accessibility partner can keep you on that path. Learn how UserWay can support all of your compliance and digital accessibility needs.

UserWay: Your AI-Powered Accessibility Partner

UserWay’s AI-Powered solutions cover all of your accessibility and compliance needs. Companies that act now can better serve people with disabilities and mitigate costly legal penalties for non-compliance.

Why hesitate? Speak to a friendly UserWay representative, or start your free trial today.  

Common FAQs

What Does the ADA Require for Closed Caption Videos?

  • All captions should have 1-3 (a max of 3) lines of simultaneous text
  • Captions must be 99% accurate
  • Use text that’s close in appearance to the Helvetica font
  • Provide a square bracket for each background noise and non-speech sound

Do Multiple Closed Captioning Options Improve Accessibility?

Yes. Captioning helps viewers with sound-related impairments comprehend and enjoy video content. 

How do Analog & Digital Closed Captioning Differ?

An analog caption only shows white text on black backgrounds. New digital captions (called CEA-708 captions) enable users to adjust the captions’ dimensions, colors, font sizes, etc.