Principles of captioning and transcription
Captioning provides equal access to effective communication for individuals with hearing, learning, and other cognitive disabilities by converting audio content into text that is displayed on a monitor or screen. Captioning produces a time synchronized transcript that captures spoken word and relevant sound effects, identifies speakers, and provides music description to convey the full context of the live or recorded course, program or event.
Requirements and guidelines
The University is required to provide accurate captions and/or transcripts of live and recorded courses, meetings, programs, and events when any of the following apply:
- Request for disability-related accommodation
If you receive a disability-related accommodation request for captions and/or transcripts, the University must engage with professional captioning services for both live and post-production services.
If a student requests captioning as a disability-related accommodation, please contact the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC). SDAC will arrange for professional captioning services and assist with the process.
Faculty and staff
If faculty or staff request captioning as a disability-related accommodation, please refer to the Procedures for Employees with Disabilities to Request Workplace Accommodations and contact your department's Employee Relations Consultant.
To request captioning as disability-related accommodation for the interview process, contact the ADA Coordinator at email@example.com.
- Hosting University-sponsored courses, programs and events
When is captioning and/or transcription required?
If a University-sponsored course, program, or event is made available to the public, or if there is no registration/enrollment process to attend, accurate captioning and/or transcription is required and must be provided.
If there is a registration process for an event, it is important that each participant be asked if accommodations will be needed for their participation.
If a University-sponsored course, program, or event is made available to the public, or if there is no registration/enrollment process to attend, accurate captioning and/or transcription is required and must be provided. It is important that sponsors advertise this service in your invitation and marketing materials. This alerts individuals who rely on these types of services to know they will be able to participate in the event. Here is an example:
The University of Virginia is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. Live captions and accompanying transcript (within three business days of the event) will be provided. Please contact [name, email, phone of the event organizer or primary contact] to request disability-related accommodations. Examples of accommodations may include ASL-English interpreting services, accessible digital copies of programs, accessible seating, and accessible parking. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accommodations. Please contact us at least seven days prior to the start of this event.
If there is a registration process for an event, it is important that each participant be asked if accommodations will be needed for their participation. The request can be made by responding to a statement such as the one above, or via a question on the registration form. A sample statement which should be modified appropriately for your online or in-person event:
The University of Virginia is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. Please contact [name, email, phone of the event organizer or primary contact] to request disability-related accommodations. Examples of accommodations may include real-time captioning, ASL-English interpreting services, accessible digital copies of programs, accessible seating, and accessible parking. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accommodations. Please contact us at least seven days prior to the start of this event.
We will be providing live captions and an accompanying transcript using the built-in automatic speech recognition software (ASR) feature of [insert tool (i.e., Zoom, MS Teams, other)]. Please let us know by [insert date at least 5 days before event] if you would like to request accommodations such as captions by a professional service, ASL interpretation, or other services for your full participation in our event. Contact [insert contact name] to request these accommodations [contact email, phone].
Visit the University ADA Coordinator's Planning and Hosting Accessible Programs and Events website for more information on how you can create an inclusive and accessible environment, whether virtual or in-person.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please complete the Captioning and Transcription Request/Question Form or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
When is captioning and/or transcription beneficial?
Providing captions and transcripts are not required, but recommended as a beneficial practice for the audience in the following circumstances:
- When a class or an event, which is not open to the public or is offered by invitation only, is expected to exceed 250 participants.
- When the speaker is difficult to understand (strong accent, soft speaker, speech articulation difficulties, etc.).
- When the recording will be reused for University purposes.
- To provide multiple means of engagement for an audience.
- When it is recognized that members of the audience may be participating with a variety of devices over uncertain internet access and stability.
If you are providing audio-only files (e.g. Podcasts, rebroadcast of radio programs), accurate transcripts should be made available at the same time the recording is available.
- Important: Accuracy requirement
Captions and transcripts must meet the 99% accuracy threshold. This standard ensures that the content of the video or audio file is accurate for all users. To meet this standard, captions and transcripts should be:
- Accurate: Errorless captions are without spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors and is the goal for each production.
- Consistent: Uniformity in style and presentation of all captioning features is crucial for viewer understanding.
- Clear: A complete textual representation of the audio, including speaker identification and non-speech information, such as a musical track and sound effects, provides clarity.
- Readable: Captions are displayed with enough time to be read completely, are in synchronization with the audio, and are not obscured by (nor do they obscure) the visual content.
- Equal: Equal access requires that the meaning and intention of the material is completely preserved.
To understand the art of captioning and best practices, please refer to the “Captioning Key.”
Live Captioning is captioning that occurs at the exact time of the event. There are two types of real-time captioning: automated and professional.
- Automated captioning services
Several platforms offer live machine-generated captions using Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). ASR recognizes the words spoken and provides machine-based captions with 90% captioning for live video. The following are examples of video conferencing platforms compatible with live machine-generated captioning services. Providing instructions at the start of any live video directing participants how to turn on captions is a standard best practice.
Accuracy: Keep in mind that machine-generated captions may not be fully accurate and therefore are not considered an accommodation. If an accommodation is needed you will need to hire a professional captioning service.
- Professional captioning services
Professional captioning services employ a professional caption writer (human) to manually provide accurate captions for an event in real time, ensuring fidelity to meet accessibility regulations. A live captioner will understand the context of the conversation and thereby be able to provide a higher level of accuracy than ASR solutions. Fees are associated with hiring a live human captionist. Please refer to the Professional Captioning Fees and Costs page for more information.
Post-production captioning is captioning that occurs after an event is recorded. There are two types of post-production captioning.
- Automated captioning services
Several platforms offer automated machine-generated captions using Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). ASR recognizes the words spoken and provides machine-based captions with 80%-90% captioning of the video.
You should plan for time to edit these machine-generated captions to ensure a higher level of accuracy. This is especially important to consider when the topic area uses technical terms, when the audio quality is not ideal, and/or if the language being captioned is not native to the speaker.
- Professional captioning services
If you find that you don’t have the time or resources available to caption your own videos, you may want to reach out to a professional service that can caption them for you to ensure your content remains in compliance with accessibility guidelines (99% accuracy). A professional will transcribes your video manually, ensuring 99% fidelity to meet compliance standards. Professional captioning has a fee associated. Please refer to the Professional Captioning Fees and Costs page for various vendors and their approximate costs.