The accessibility purpose of captions and transcripts is to provide an equally effective experience and timely access to the same information that people without disabilities receive when they watch and listen to a live or recorded video.
When video content is broadly used by students, employees, or the public to carry out or participate in the core educational and administrative activities of the University, captions should be included.
These guidelines are intended primarily to help University staff, faculty, and students ensure video content is accessible to people with auditory disabilities, as well as to those with other disabilities that require captioning as an accommodation.
The guidelines are also intended for members of the University community who wish to follow universal design and extend the benefits of accessible video content to anyone in their intended audience. Empirical studies indicate that video captioning improves attention to and comprehension of video content for all people, not only those with disabilities. Captioning is especially helpful to learners and non-native speakers.
The audio portion of videos can be transcribed and made available in two ways:
- Captions provide a synchronized text description of the audio and appear within the video window. They exist within the video player and cannot be referenced outside of it.
- Transcripts also provide a text description of the audio. They can be time-indexed but are not synchronized with the video. They exist in a separate file and appear outside the video player.
Because the goal of captions is to provide an experience equal to listening to the audio, in addition to capturing the words being spoken, captions should include:
- who is speaking
- information to set the scene or to provide details about how someone is speaking
- wordless vocalizations, such as laughter, coughs and sighs
- important sound effects or environmental sounds
Since March, 2020, all videos added to Media Central are automatically machine captioned. Because captioning is automatic, you should not caption your videos beforehand. Once you upload them to Media Central, any existing captions will be overwritten. See below for instructions on editing captions to improve their accuracy.
To best way to ensure captions and transcripts are high quality and accurate is to procure professional captioning services. When requesting video production from the University’s Video Production Services team, you should indicate that the video be delivered with captions.
Automated captioning is improving but generally provides around 80% - 90% accuracy. Automated services should not be relied upon for the high standards appropriate to materials that represent the University. They are never sufficient for providing equal access to people with disabilities. If automated captioning is used, it should only be considered as a first step until the captions are corrected, either in-house or by a professional captioner.
Closed vs Open Captions
Closed captions are captions that can be turned on or off by the user. If a user turns them on, by pressing the CC button, the video player overlays and synchronizes the captions. Closed captions are preferred for accessibility since users can customize the size, placement, font and color of the text, or divert the captions to a braille display.
Not all video streaming tools and platforms accept closed captions. In such cases you should use open captions or link to a captioned copy of the video.
Open captions are captions that are integrated into the video itself. They cannot be removed or turned off. Open captions are most useful when the video will be used on a platform that cannot accept closed captions.
Refer to the Social Media Accessibility Guidelines for more information about open and closed captions for social media platforms.
Editing Captions in Media Central
Once you upload a video, the captioning process will begin and generally takes a few hours. Once the process is complete:
- Got to https://mediacentral.princeton.edu
- Log in.
- Pull down the menu under your profile name, and select My Media.
- In the list of videos that appears, click on the title of the video you want to edit.
- When the video detail page opens, pull down the ACTIONS menu and select Captions & Enrich.
- Select the pencil (edit) icon.
- When the Closed Captions Editor page opens, click on the first caption entry, which will take you to the start of the spoken audio in the video. The select the video play button to follow along.
- Check back and forth as you listen to the video and read the caption entries. Start and stop the video as needed, so thta you can correct the captions to match the spoken audio.
- Save your work every few minutes.
Professional Captioning Services
Pre-recorded are captions that are produced after a video has been recorded but before it has been posted (for example to a departmental website, or to social media). Pre-recorded captions can be generated automatically and then corrected by a knowledgeable person, or can be generated by a professional captioner.
Vendors for Pre-recorded Captions
Also known by the technical term Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART), live captions are produced as an event takes place. The captions are provided either with the captioner in attendance or participating remotely via web conference. Online, the captions are shown over the bottom portion of the video window. In an in-person event, the captions are shown on a separate screen in the room.
Follow these directions in order, according to the type of event you are hosting:
For Major Events
- When you submit a request for Media Event/Production Support, indicate on the form the need for live captioning.
- You must then also separately schedule live captioning with CaptionFirst.
- CaptionFirst will then contact Video Production Support to coordinate captioning.
For Zoom Webinars
- To enable live captioning, you must first submit a request for a Video / Web Conferencing Account.
- Once your account has been established, schedule live captioning with CaptionFirst.
- Contact Video Production Support with any questions or concerns.
For Zoom Meetings
- All staff Zoom accounts are Meeting accounts, so no account request is required.
- Schedule live captioning with CaptionFirst.
To Record and Archive Zoom Meetings and Webinars
For information on recording and archiving of Zoom meetings, please visit the Knowledge Base article Media Central: Store and manage your video collection.
For Individual Accommodations
- Contact the Office of Disability Services.
- ODS coordinates with vendors, typically ACS Captions or White Coat Captioning.
- ODS also coordinates with internal offices as needed.