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Captioning: What You Need to Know

University Business, Oct 2009

Accessibility is a part of usability. When you aim to please one group you please another.

“If you receive federal funds, you are required to make your information accessible,” says Richard Goodrow, web and media programmer at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. That, of course, includes video.

As the leading institution for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, Gallaudet is deeply committed to reaching all students, and Goodrow says captions have extra, often unintended, benefits. “Captions help everyone, especially ESL or ELL students, new signers, and potentially those with learning disabilities.” Captioning also makes content become easily searchable through traditional text searches, allowing viewers to go directly to the part of the video they need.

Goodrow suggests the following resources to learn more about captioning:

  • Caption Keeper ( For converting archival footage, the software runs the video through a closed-caption decoder and grabs the captions.
  • Subtitle Workshop ( Lets you synchronize timing between a video and text transcript to produce various files in the proper caption format.
  • Web Accessibility in Mind ( Explains the technical part of how to match various file formats up with the video to produce synchronous playback of video, sound, and caption tracks. It also features tutorials on everything to do with captioning.

Every video player (e.g. Flash, RealPlayer, and QuickTime) has slightly different captioning methods. You’ll need to learn how to do captioning for whichever players your institution works with.

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