Media Accessibility: Captions and More

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Table of Contents

What is Video Captioning?
Captioning with MediaSpace
Other Captioning Options
Descriptive Audio
What about Audio Files?

What is Video Captioning?

Video is a powerful and increasingly common way to capture or supplement instruction and allow students to access content at their own pace. However, videos must be amended to be accessible to students with auditory impairments. The audio content in a video often carries meaning and explains the visual content of the video, especially for a recorded lecture, which means that students who can’t access the audio are at a disadvantage. 

If you are interested in learning more about how insufficient accommodations in a video can affect comprehension, a video called The Importance of Captioning attempts to give hearing viewers the experience of not being able to access the audio content of a video.

And captions aren’t just beneficial to students with hearing impairments; many hearing people watch videos with captions on.  Similarly, audio files (such as podcasts, MP3 recordings, interviews, etc.) require a time-stamped transcript (a written or printed version of the material) to be accessible to people who cannot hear. 

It is important to remember that while captions can serve an overall instructional benefit, they are also important to help us to stay in compliance with the ADA and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. These are translated for us into actionable steps, by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

The following guidelines were established by the ADA and WCAG in regards to captioning. All captions MUST be:

  • Synchronized: the text should appear at approximately the same time that audio would be available.
  • Equivalent: content provided in captions should be equivalent to that of the spoken word (at least 95% accurate).
  • Accessible: captioned content should be readily accessible and available to those who need it.

Captioning in MediaSpace

Faculty can easily create closed captions for videos and transcripts for their audio recordings using MediaSpace, KSU's tool for uploading and streaming video and audio.  There are two options:

  1. Machine captioning or auto-captioning
  2. Human or professional captioning

Why Use Machine Captioning?

There are a few reasons we recommend faculty use the machine captioning option in MediaSpace:

First, starting in June 2023, every new video uploaded in Kaltura MediaSpace will automatically have machine captions added.  This does not necessarily apply to uncaptioned videos uploaded prior to June 2023.  So, for older videos, you may still need to add machine captions manually.  Beyond that, the machine captions offer:

  • Speed: MediaSpace creates captions by machine with an accuracy of 85% or higher in half an hour or less. Other methods of generating captions or transcripts may take up to a week.  However, to improve the accuracy of the machine-generated captions to the acceptable 95% level, faculty will need to edit the machine produced captions. The UITS guide for editing captions in MediaSpace  (you may need to log in to ServiceNow to access) can guide you through this process.  A brief step-by-step video is also available from DLI.
  • Accuracy: Editing the captions yourself gives you more control over the final product so you can ensure that technical terms, names, and any information that is specific to your course are accurately reflected in the captions.
  • Length: Any length of media can be captioned using machine captioning, whereas, due to the increased cost, professional captioning requests prioritize videos 15 minutes or less.

Foreign Language Captioning

Machine captioning is also available for foreign language classes!  We now have same language captioning available through Kaltura MediaSpace for 11 of the 13 non-English languages taught at KSU.  Those languages include Arabic, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.  We’ve created a a brief video resource to explain and to show you how to begin using it.

Professional Captions Request Form

Professional captioning for English only is available in MediaSpace through Digital Learning Innovations.  Due to the increased cost of this service, DLI will prioritize requests for professional captions in the following order:

  1. The request involves making accommodations for a specific student with an official accommodation plan that requires captioned media
  2. Videos where the speaker is not a native American-English speaker 
  3. Videos 15 minutes or less in length but not meeting 1 or 2
  4. All other requests

DLI does its best to support all faculty seeking to make their course content accessible for their students.  If you need help breaking your videos up into 15 minute sections, view our instructional video - How to Break Down a Longer Video into Shorter Clips.

Fill out the caption form to request professional captions for your videos in MediaSpace.

What if my Video is on YouTube or Another Site?

Faculty who host their videos on other sites such as YouTube or Vimeo can also create and edit their captions. YouTube does have an auto-caption feature. However, a very helpful article from the University of Minnesota Duluth indicates that the auto-captions are typically 60-70% accurate. Therefore, it is important that you edit the captions for any videos you host on YouTube. YouTube's Help Center has a great resource section detailing this process. Vimeo, unfortunately, requires you to create your own caption file and upload it, which is a much more difficult process.  

If you’re using a different site to host your videos, they will likely have a resource to help you add captions.  In our Resources section below, we’ve linked some other resources that can help. 

What if the Video on YouTube isn’t Mine?

There are a lot of great supplemental video resources out there! Sources like TED Talks, Khan Academy, and others frequently provide high-quality video resources and often have quality captions included.

However, not every video on YouTube or Vimeo is from such a resource and even those, sometimes, do not have adequate captions. It is important to note that if you use videos or audio files that are not your own, you may not be able to get them captioned or easily produce transcripts.  

If a video that you want to use does not have captions, there are a few steps you can take:

  1. Contact the video owner—sometimes the person who owns the video will add captions for you.
  2. Find the video from another source (either locating the original source or using Films on Demand).
  3. It is possible for the student to use Google Chrome's advanced accessibility feature to acquire auto-captions for your third-party video.  
  4. Find a replacement. Unfortunately, if you don’t own the video and it is not accessible, it is often not possible to make it accessible.  In those cases, it is better to keep searching until you find a video that is appropriately accessible.  

For more assistance with implementing captions, please reach out to the DLI Team.

What are Audio Descriptions?

In the same way that closed captions make the audio portion of a video accessible to a person with limited hearing, audio descriptions (or Descriptive Audio) is an audio narration that describes the visual action in a video. When it is turned on, it makes certain visual details in a video more accessible to a person with limited vision.  

Because audio descriptions focus on describing the action in a video, rather than describing every detail on the screen, audio descriptions can help with:

  • What is happening: actions and reactions
  • What people are doing in a scene, demonstration, or recital
  • What is being drawn or what color it is
  • Etc.

For this reason, while every video that has audio in it should be captioned, not every video needs to have a descriptive audio track added.  To learn more about audio descriptions, view a sample, find the criteria for when you might need to include audio descriptions, or even request audio descriptions for your video, visit our Request Audio Descriptions page.

What About Audio Files Such as MP3s or Podcasts?

Audio recordings can be a great resource for students on the go!  However, if your audio recordings have dialog, you'll need to create a transcript for students that cannot hear it.  The good news is that if you own the file, you can upload it to MediaSpace and run a caption request just as you would for a video.  From there, downloading the transcript is easy.  Download our transcript resource to see where you can locate the transcript and download it.

However, if you do not own the audio file (if it is a podcast or a public recording), your options may be more limited.  You may need to type up a transcript.