University of Wisconsin–Madison

Create accessible video and audio content

5 minute to read | Last updated January 7, 2021

Learn more about when and how to make video and audio content accessible with captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions.

Why make media content accessible?

Captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions help to make media content more accessible to students, employees, and members of the public and help to ensure that your content is compliant with the ADA. 

People use captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions to:

  • Better understand the content
  • Watch a video when audio is turned off to accommodate viewing in a public place.
  • Listen to video content when viewing media is not an option
  • Follow along as a non-native speaker
  • Pause and reread a statement without having to replay multiple times
  • Understand technical terms in context
  • Identify and understand visual elements in context

This video demonstrates the feeling of exclusion that people with disabilities might feel when encountering inaccessible content.

What's the difference between captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions?

Captions 

Text version of the audio content within a video, synchronized with the action on screen. Captions should be accurate, use correct punctuation, state in brackets who is speaking at the start of a new speaker, and indicate relevant ambient sound or emotional tone.

Transcripts 

Text version of media content, most commonly used for making audio content accessible. A transcript should capture all the spoken audio, plus background noise that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible without hearing the audio.

Audio Descriptions

Additional audio track that describes and gives context for essential visual information. They make videos and multimedia accessible to people who have low vision, or who are blind by capturing what is happening on screen.

When should I caption or transcribe my content?

  • If you have a student who has an approved disability-related accommodation using media or real-time captioning, or a sign language interpreter, captioning of video content and transcription of audio-only content is required.
  • For all public-facing video and audio content.

Otherwise, it is strongly recommended to proactively caption video content and provide transcripts of audio content. Doing so improves the usability of your content for a wide array of learners and contexts.

How do I add captions, transcripts, or audio descriptions to content?

Student disability-related accommodations

Students with an approved disability accommodation will send instructors a faculty notification letter through McBurney Connect. McBurney staff will then contact the instructor to meet to discuss the accommodation and process for captioning or transcribing media.

Do it yourself

There are free tools available online that make it relatively easy to caption your own video, but they often need editing for accuracy. Note that editing machine-generated captions to meet accessibility standards can be very labor-intensive, especially for longer videos. Learn more:

Outsource to professional services

UW-Madison has contracts with two companies that provide professional captioning services: 3PlayMedia and CaptionSync. Their services include relatively seamless integrations with YouTube, Canvas, Blackboard Ultra, and other platforms. Learn more: