October: Captioning Basics

What are captions? 

Captions offer a written, textual account of the spoken words in a video or live streaming event.  Captions can be automatically generated via software or created manually by a professional transcription service.

Why should I use captions?

Video captions and audio transcripts provide access to people:

  • are deaf or hard of hearing
  • are learning another language, 
  • have learning disabilities or other cognitive impairments,
  • learn by taking in information in multiple ways
  • are in quiet environments where audio output is undesirable (i.e., libraries)
  • are in noisy environments where audio may be difficult to hear or understand (i.e., student unions).
  • do not have equipment that supports audio output (such as headphones)
  • are looking for information contained in a video; search engines can find information in captions and transcripts, but not in a video or audio file

What is the difference between human-generated and machine-generated captions?

A majority of video conferencing software employs machine-generated caption tools. A computer program quickly analyzes and interprets speech and translates those sounds into written words. Accuracy varies greatly from service to service. Machine-generated captions are excellent as the first layer of accessibility but are not ADA compliant as they are rarely 99.9 percent accurate.

Human-generated captions are often provided by a third-party service and are often edited in post-production for later usage. Transcriptionists will add punctuation, speaker names, and clarify content errors to the best of their ability. This act typically brings the accuracy into the 99th percentile. The process of editing a caption file can be time-consuming and expensive, but it is necessary for any accommodation request from Disability Resources.

How can I improve accessibility through captioning?

For Fall 2021, the Accessible Academic Technology Team is challenging UMD staff to turn on captioning in their meetings and classes.

How do I enable captions in my meetings and classroom?