Monthly Archives: April 2009

tips on captioning video

Below is some advice from a national listserv of multimodal teachers about captioning videos. In addition, I have a brief blog post about captioning available here, but you might have to google some of the resources mentioned there, as the post is just a list of notes from a presentation I saw.

Software programs are available – and they are free! – for adding caption tracks to video content. MAGpie is probably the best known (developed by WGBH): http://ncam.wgbh.org/webaccess/magpie/index.html. Subtitle Workshop is good too: http://www.urusoft.net/products.php?cat=sw&lang=1

Also available are online tools that work on a crowdsourcing model – the crowd does the work for/with you — such as dotSUB.com and Overstream.net. You may want to submit a video to one of these sites and see if someone will transcribe and then caption it. Or you can do the captioning yourself. Both sites have an easy-to-use web interface for entering captions and time-stamps for each caption.

As far as I know, no captioning program will do time-consuming work for you. I’ve heard (and can confirm through personal experience) that it takes about 1 hour to caption 3 minutes of video.

I wouldn’t encourage you to rely solely on interpreters to make multimedia content accessible to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The content itself needs to be accessible. The best way is to add text captions. But for ASL users who may struggle with written text, signed captions may also be appropriate (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/#media-equiv). In other words, the solution should always make the content itself accessible, rather than rely on outside people to interpret the content.

I wouldn’t say that YouTube is inaccessible, as I think someone has written in response to your message. Rather, captioning YouTube videos is not a priority for content creators/uploaders (if it’s even recognized as a component of multimedia design at all) and many of the YouTube videos are considered disposable anyway.  Google’s video player now supports captions (see http://googlevideo.blogspot.com/2006/09/finally-caption-playback.html). The same support is available in YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/t/captions_about

Finally, I’d inquire about your university’s own responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations under ADA and/or Section 508. In my state (Texas), institutions of higher education are required to adhere to the Texas Administrative Code. In the sections of the code concerned with web design (http://tinyurl.com/yostg2), the standards are essentially identical to Section 508. The 508 guideline for captions is: “A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via “alt,” “longdesc,” or in element content).” Audio and video are considered non-text. If your institution receives federal money, even indirectly (federal student loans), it is responsible for ensuring compliance with 508. Recently (see Target v. NFB), the courts seem to have resolved the question of whether the Internet is a “place” under ADA, so the ADA – which is intended to ensure reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities — is also in play when we have to figure out how to accommodate d

The safe, legal route is for you to work with your ADA compliance officer and your disability services office to ensure that videos are captioned for the two students in question. You run the risk of a lawsuit or an audit by the federal Office for Civil Rights if you don’t.

Thanks for posing your question to the list. I read this thread with great interest.

I’ve written about some of these issues: http://seanzdenek.com/?page_id=22