Video Captions and Audio Transcripts


  1. If you use audio files on your Web page, a text transcript or other text-based material should be provided.

    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.1—"An alternative for time-based media is provided that presents equivalent information for prerecorded audio-only content."

  2. If video files are used, captions or a synchronized text transcript should be provided.
    NOTE: Captions also benefit non-native speakers, users with audio disabled or viewers watching a video with poor quality audio.

    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.2—"Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such."

  3. Video files should be embedded or displayed in a player that can be accessed by a screen reader via keyboard commands. Accessible players include QuickTime, RealPlayer, iTunes, YouTube and properly configured JW Player.

    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.1—"Make all functionality available from a keyboard."

  4. Videos that include visual information critical to comprehension should include a description of events or images for visually impaired audiences. For example, a screencast of a software product should name the buttons and commands being used, not just say "click here".

    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.3—An alternative for time-based media or audio description of the prerecorded video content is provided for synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.

  5. A lengthy piece of audio or video should not be played by default when entering a page. Instead, the user should be able to click the play button to start the file. This provision prevents audio from interfering with screenreader audio.

NOTE: Transcripts are also beneficial to users who may not be able to access audio on their computers. This is a very frequent situation.

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Accessible Audio/Video Examples

Audio Transcript Example

The following paragraph includes a link to a podcast and also to its transcript as a separate link.

Podcast on Knowledge Commons

Podcast Audio (MP3) | Text Transcript

Accessible Video File with Text Transcript

Instructor Interview

The following interview with Prof. Nuria Sagarra is captioned. You can access captions by clicking the arrow button in the lower right corner of the screen.

Image of Nuria Sagarra with caption 'It's a no brainer really.'

Additional Examples

Simply Speaking Computer Technology Videos

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Captioning Tips and Tools

  • Download a free eBook: Get Started with Video Captioning, a beginner's guide to video captioning. Discusses why you should caption video, different caption formats, helpful software, and captioning style guidelines.
    - iBook Version
    - PDF Version

  • Many popular media players such as Quicktime Pro, Flash Video (including YouTube), Real Player and Windows Media include captioning options. In many cases, captions are stored in an external text file, which can be easily edited.
    NOTE: It is recommended that you do a Google search to determine the latest captioning options.

  • If you have a script for an audio or video production, it can be the basis for a text transcript. Otherwise you may need to manually transcribe the text.

  • Speech recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking can automate some transcription, but should be reviewed for errors, especially when low-quality audio or unusual words is/are used.

  • Avoid having an audio or video file play automatically on a Web page. Such a feature is potentially distracting for some users, and could interfere with speech recognition software.

  • Visually impaired users may need additional information about images in a video.

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    Captioning Software and Providers

    Captioning Software

    Penn State supports MovieCaptioner (Mac and Windows) from Synchrimedia. This tool supports many captioning formats and can create transcripts as well.

    A free license is available to Penn State faculty and staff by request. Students may use MovieCaptioner in the Mac labs on campus, but personal copies cannot be distributed due to the sheer volume of requests that could entail. Faculty and staff may contact the Penn State Synchrimedia Contact for more information.

    Captioning Providers

    These are some vendors who provide captions for a fee:

    There are also local providers near many campus locations.

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    Audio Descriptions for Blind Users

    For the visually impaired, the audio of many videos, particularly interviews, is sufficient for such a user to understand the content.

    In other cases, supplemental descriptions of visual content within the video may be needed for the audience to understand the context of the audio. Examples include descriptions of charts, graphs, software screenshots, or an action-filled video.

    See the Audio Description for the Blind page for more information.

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