Captions, Audio Description & Transcripts

The February, 2015 issue of Campus Technology covers a recent lawsuit in which prominent universities are facing accusations of failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The primary complaint is that they didn’t include captions or they relied on the inadequate automated captions from YouTube on the materials they post online for consumption by the general public.


Captions are not only for the deaf and hard of hearing. They help people whose first language is not English, those who have technological barriers, and people in a loud or public place where the video sound is obscured. Follow our surprisingly simple instruction tutorial to caption videos.

Audio description will assist people who have visual barriers and are not able to see or hear the video. Demonstration videos and videos with a musical track should be audio described.

Transcripts must accompany all audio files. Transcripts can be on the screen or as a downloadable attachment but must provide a comparable experience to that of accessing the audio file. If you choose to include a download be sure you understand the ADA issues particular to downloads.


For performances and artwork a text equivalent can be particularly challenging. In addition to describing what is happening, who is performing, what instruments or movements are being performed, what the space looks like, you can also include artists statements, stage direction, quotes about the performance,  and character and tone assessments. Don’t be afraid to be a little creative.

Provide Options for Access

It is highly recommended that you provide alternate access options for content available in different formats or places. For example, if you’re embedding from YouTube, provide a direct link to the video on YouTube as well as contact information for the visitor to request assistance if they’re unable to access the video.

Technology is always changing and what works today may not work tomorrow. Code could become obsolete or a browser update could break your content or a new device just may not handle it as expected. Don’t rely too heavily on one delivery system if alternates are available.

Additional Benefit

Extra BenefitText equivalents are searchable and increase find-ability in search engines, like Google. Devices that cannot display the video for some reason will at least provide the description.

Captioning & Transcription Services

For a very reasonable fee the University of Texas Libraries Captioning and Transcription Service creates captions and transcriptions for campus media.  In certain cases, the university will cover the cost.

Start Captioning

Follow our surprisingly simple instruction tutorial to caption videos yourself.

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