Video Transcripts and Captions

Most multimedia files require both a transcript and captions. If you aren’t sure provide both.

Basic Requirements

  • Pre-recorded video with audio (multimedia): Requires a transcript and synchronized captions.
  • Live video with audio (multimedia): Requires synchronized captions.
  • Video only (or with just music): Requires a transcript, or an audio track describing the video.
  • Pre-recorded audio only: Requires a transcript.
  • Live audio only: Requires captions.

Transcript/Caption Requirements for Media

File Type Require Transcript Require Synchronized Captions
Pre-recorded video with audio (multimedia) X X
Live video with audio (multimedia)   X
Video only file (or with just music) X (note: an audio track describing the video can be used instead of a transcript)  
Pre-recorded audio only X  
Live audio only   X


Some benefits of providing transcripts

  • Transcripts allow the content of your multimedia to be searchable, both by computers (such as search engines) and by end users.
  • Screen reader users may also prefer the transcript over listening to the audio of the web multimedia.
  • Most proficient screen reader users set their assistive technology to read at a rate much faster than most humans speak. This allows the screen reader user to access the transcript of the video and get the same content in less time than listening to the actual audio content.

Creating a Transcript

  • In addition to spoken audio, transcripts should include on-screen text and descriptions of key visual information that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible without seeing the video.
  • There are no specific rules for formatting, but be sure the formatting is easy to read.
  • If you have created a caption file it can be used as a transcript. The file may need to be edited for clarity.
  • The transcript can be an HTML, a Word doc, or a text file.
  • The transcript can be on the same page as the video or provided via a link from the page with the video.


Examples of people who may benefit from captions?

  • People with impaired hearing who may not be able to hear the audio.
  • People with cognitive and learning disabilities who need to see and hear the content to better understand it.
  • People for whom the language spoken in the audio is not their primary language, etc.

Guidelines for captions

  • Synchronized - the text content should appear at approximately the same time that audio would be available.
  • Equivalent - content provided in captions should be equivalent to that of the spoken word.
  • Accessible - caption content should be readily accessible and available to those who need it.
  • Captions should include the words that are spoken, who is speaking when it is not evident, and important sounds like music, laughter, and noises.
  • Captions can be open (always visible) or closed (turned on/off by the user).

Creating Captions for video

Outsource to a 3rd Party

Create Your Own Captions

You can create your own captions by uploading your own files to be associated with your videos or using web-based software. has free captioning tools, as well as paid services. YouTube also has many captioning tools.

Captioning YouTube Videos

YouTube provides 3 ways to create captions for a video:

  • Uploading a plain text (.txt) caption file.
  • Using the YouTube caption tool.
  • Using YouTube automated captioning. Because YouTube uses automated speech to text software it is important to proofread the generated captions and edit as appropriate.

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