Captions & Transcripts

Winter view of Hamilton Smith building on UNH campus

Captions should be included on all video content and transcripts should be included for all audio-only content (music, podcasts, etc.). Many people use captions. We use them at the gym, at restaurants, and when we watch shows at home. While these are helpful to many, captions are essential for access for some people. Captions and transcripts provide a written representation of critical auditory information. While most often associated with speech, captions often also include other auditory information like the type of music or other sounds that are important to understanding the content.  

Generally, there are two types of captions:  

  • Closed Captions 
    • Can be turned off and on based on user preference
    • Allow for flexible usage so best option if available 
    • Used with videos and longer content
  • Open Captions  
    • Always on 
    • Not as flexible as closed captions, but should be used over nothing?
    • Used within social media due to player limitations and content types 
    • Sometimes used with presentations 

It should be noted that, although often confused with each other, captions are not the same as audio description. Audio description is focused not only on speech and sound, but on providing an audio representation, generally a narration, of the visual content being displayed. This provides people who cannot access the visual content with a way to understand the non-audio content within the video. This ensures more effective access to videos for a wider range of individuals. 

A Note about Auto-Captions  

Many media players now include an option for automated captions. This feature is commonly seen on YouTube and is also included within the UNH media player Kaltura. It should be noted, however, that auto-captions are often not considered to be sufficient for creating a fully accessible video. The key issue of insufficiency is that the quality of auto-captions depends on:

  • Audio quality
  • Specific content/terminology used
  • Accents 
  • Rate of speech

While auto-captions have improved significantly over the years, auto-captions will still need to be edited to ensure accuracy. They can be a very effective starting point but should not be considered an endpoint. 

Learn More about Captions