Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Are All Video Captions Equally Accessible?

Filed under: Blog Accessibility — by at 5:45 pm on Thursday, January 14, 2010

While writing my latest post for on captioning videos, I had the opportunity to learn a bit more about captioning YouTube videos. I began wondering if how I caption videos is the most accessible way of doing it. Allow me to explain.

When I create a PowerPoint presentation, I also include captions. This means when I capture the presentation as a video, the captions are already there, as in this video on accessible recreation:

Similarly, when I record a video, I use the captioning feature in Camtasia Studios 6, which is fairly easy to do. Captions are automatically added below the video, as in this video message:

This way the captions are always visible, not only for individuals who require them but also to be subtle accessibility reminder to others that videos need to be captioned.

YouTube closed caption button By having the captions always visible – open captions, it saves toggling on captions in YouTube, if, indeed, captions do exist.

How many people even know the arrow in the lower right corner of the YouTube can turn on/off captions when captions are available? Go watch this great video of the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0) Theme Song with the captions turned on. Can the caption feature be operated only using the keyboard? I am still digging for that answer…

Interestingly, if the captions happen to be turned off when I grab the code to add the video to this post, the captions button is no longer available (unless something changes after this post is live), making the captions unavailable to my readers. Really?

My embedded captions are always available, regardless where the video is viewed!

Because of the way I create captions, they are part of the video when I upload to Viddler or YouTube. I do not need to upload and edit a separate captions file. However it does mean when viewers search YouTube for captioned videos, mine are not listed.

Apparently when captions are uploaded separately to YouTube, they can be automatically translated into the viewer’s preferred language, and hence the videos become accessible to a larger audience. I am still looking for an example to verify how this actually works. My captions cannot be instantly translated.

Also, captions, being text, can be searched for, further increasing findability and accessibility. Captions created through PowerPoint and Camtasia cannot be searched via YouTube. 

Finally, when turning on captions in a YouTube video, you can control the look of captions with a few keyboard shortcuts:

  • Increase text size: press "+" key
  • Decrease text size: press "-" key
  • Change background: press "B" or "b" key

My embedded captions are always white text on a black background to maximize contrast and to enhance readability. However, short of watching the video in full screen mode, the viewer has no control over the font size. In future videos I can, however, increase the font size when creating the captions in PowerPoint and Camtasia, if this is an issue.

After this experimenting, I’m left wondering: are some video captions more accessible than others? What is the most accessible method of captioning video?

Share your thoughts and opinions in the comment box below…

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by Bill Creswell

January 15, 2010 @ 4:51 am

I am looking forward to the day when those captions are presented as a script for those who do not have flash (for example, mobile users), and the descriptive transcript as well for the screenreader.

Comment by Bill Creswell

January 15, 2010 @ 4:56 am

A little note about the design of your blog – the submit comment box is not immediately visible, nor does it look like a button or a link to click.

Comment by Vince T

January 16, 2010 @ 8:33 am

This captioning business is all new to me, and leaves me with one burning question – as a severely sight impaired person, are these captions just going to be visual clutter that I can’t read and the screen reader can’t read either? Or is there a way they can be readable in speech by the screen reader and left out of the cpossibly confusing visual display?

I ask because although I can enjoy many videos, especially when blown up to full-screen size, usually any text on screen is unreadable to me, and is in a graphics format that will not work with access tech.

Sorry to raise more complications!

Comment by Glenda

January 16, 2010 @ 11:59 am

Bill, great points! When videos are created from scripts, surely that text could be easily repurposed as a transcript for those unable to view the video – similar to what I did in my holiday message post.

And thanks for your point about the submit button. I’ll try to make it more button-like. All feedback is most welcomed!

Comment by Glenda

January 16, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

Vince, welcome! Great questions! Sounds like you prefer captions that can be turned on and off, which can be done with YouTube captions. The size of those captions can also be controlled by the viewer. As to whether a screen reader can read captions (when done as a separate file), let’s put that question out to other individuals who use screen readers…

Comment by fruitysudz

January 18, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

When I do YouTube captions I use MovCaptioner for the Mac. They make it really easy for anyone to do. They have a repeat function that keeps repeating a 4 second clip until you’re done typing it. When you hit the Return key it goes on to the next 4 seconds, so the whole process goes much quicker than most other methods.

Another thing I do is to use MacSpeech and an iPod Video. I play the video on my iPod, controlling the pause/play and repeat the words I hear. With MacSpeech running on my computer and the mic attached to it, it creates a text transcript using my voice, which I have it trained to recognize. I can then import this text file into MovCaptioner, then use their Set Timecode button to synch the video with the text. When I’m done I just export as SRT and upload to YouTube. Works great!

Comment by Glenda

January 18, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

Fruitysuds, thanks for detailing how you caption videos. Great information and tips!

Comment by Bill Creswell

January 19, 2010 @ 3:20 am

FruitySudz, you gave me my first convincing argument that I need to get a Mac and an iPod.

Comment by fruitysudz

January 19, 2010 @ 9:51 am

once you go Mac, you never go back! 🙂

Comment by Jodith

January 19, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

I agree with Vincent. My first concern would be whether your captions already included in the video would be able to be read by a screen reader. Unfortunately, I don’t use one, so I can’t test it out. I’m hoping one of your other readers will be able to answer the question. I’ve been considering doing podcasts on my site, and would definitely want to make it accessible for sight impaired folks.

Comment by Glenda

January 19, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

Jodith, @strongria on Twitter pointed me to the ccPlayer, which is apparently screen reader accessible. Whether this player is available through YouTube is something I don’t know, yet. Perhaps someone else can fill us in here.

My question is, and I have a feeling I’m in for accessibility lesson here: why would an individual who is sight impaired and using a screen reader need the captions to be read aloud? Wouldn’t listening to the actual audio be better? Yes, of course, the player controls need to be operable via the keyboard, and hence operable via the screen reader. But why would the captions need to be readable via a screen reader (unless the captions are foreign language subtitles)? I’m obviously missing something.

The same with podcasts – the player needs to operable by a keyboard, and have transcripts for those who are deaf and deaf-blind.

Comment by Karen Putz

January 19, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

I’m learning a lot about captioning just from this post! Great post, Glenda. Fruitysudz has me drooling for a Mac now.

Comment by Glenda

January 19, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

That makes two of us, Karen! On both accounts!

Comment by fruitysudz

January 19, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

I personally like to see captions even though I’m not hearing impaired. It reinforces what is being spoken for me and thus helps me learn. It works I think because it is stimulating more that one of your senses – both hearing and sight for a stereo effect on your brain. It also helps me pay attention. I think I’m a tad ADHD.

Comment by Bill Creswell

January 19, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

“why would an individual who is sight impaired and using a screen reader need the captions to be read aloud? Wouldn’t listening to the actual audio be better?”

Those who are both Hearing and Visually impaired might use that?

What the visually impaired would typically want is called “Audio Description”, a voice or text desribing what is happening visually on he screen. This UK Quicktime movie demonstrates the value of captions and descriptive audio.

Comment by Glenda

January 19, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

Thanks Bill, yes, audio descriptions are also necessary. I’m still confused why someone using a screen reader would need access to the caption though UNLESS it’s outputting to a refreshable Braille display. Is that even possible?

Comment by Bill Creswell

January 20, 2010 @ 3:50 am

I would not expect that someone using a screenreader would try to access the captions, since they would be the audio, which a blind person without hearing impairment could hear, and if they did have hearing impairment, the screen reader might not be the appropriate assistive technology. Many legally blind people who are not fully blind might be viewing through a screen magnifier, and I think if they had difficulty hearing also, they would be better off reading the transcript than the captions.

(summary: I think your logic about the screenreader reading captions being unnecessary is correct, but a transcript would solve that, and the case of no video player being available, for example, in portable devices like phones).

Comment by Bill Creswell

January 21, 2010 @ 8:46 am

Here’s an example of a closed caption video with a transcript.

DotSub not only allows you to caption a video, and provide a transcript, but also to make it available for others to add translations to.

Someone started to add a spanish translation to one of the movie trailers I did –

Comment by fruitysudz

January 21, 2010 @ 10:30 am

I think crowd-sourcing is a great idea.

Comment by Glenda

January 21, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

Bill, thanks for sharing those links. There are definitely ways for making videos more accessible.

Comment by Glenda

January 21, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

Definitely fruitysudz, much can be accomplished through crowd-sourcing!

Comment by Weston

February 4, 2010 @ 7:17 am

Additionally, if you don’t have time to manually type out a transcript file or you can’t type for extended periods of time, these guys will create one for as little as $.75 per minute of footage:

Comment by Glenda

February 5, 2010 @ 12:37 am

Thanks Weston, that’s definitely a reasonably priced service.

Comment by fruitysudz

May 15, 2010 @ 10:05 am

BTW, I’ve recently discovered that MacSpeech Dictate works great with MovCaptioner for the Mac. Now, instead of typing what i hear, I merely repeat what I hear in the headphones into the microphone and MacSpeech types what I say into the MovCaptioner interface. Wow, does this every make captioning videos easy!!!

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