Captioning Basics

When to Caption: General Guidelines

You should caption your materials if they will be:

  • Used where there is an immediate student need (an accommodation request from SDAC)
  • Made publicly available
  • Archived and reused

Other situations not reflected by these questions may also require captioning.

If you are providing audio-only files (e.g. Podcasts, etc), transcripts must be made available at the same time the recording is available.

  • Auto-generated captions, such as those provided by Google for YouTube videos, are inadequate. At best, their accuracy rate is 85%. The goal of the transcription/captioning process is 100% accuracy.

If you have questions, contact the Coordinator of Academic Accessibility at


Captions – Time synchronized, verbatim text that matches the audio in the video. This includes not only spoken word, but relevant sound effects and other audio components that relay the information and intention presented. In short, captions are a time-stamped version of a transcript, synchronized to the video and inclusive of all audio elements that create an accurate portrayal of the intent of the video. Captions assume the viewer cannot hear the content.

Transcripts – Verbatim text of the audio presented.

Subtitles – Translation of content into different languages. Subtitles assume the viewer cannot understand the language being spoken.

Closed captions – Captions that are able to be turned on or off by the viewer. A separate file with the captions is paired with the video file to create the captioned product.

Open captions – Captions that are “burned into” the video. These are always on and there is only one file.

Media player – A tool that combines the video file and the audio file to create the closed caption video product. It is important that the player is accessible and meets the requirements of WCAG 2.0/Level AA.

Live captioning/real-time captioning – A stenographer is capturing the audio as it is being spoken and relays this information directly to the video feed or a personal computer. This is accomplished either by remote captioning where the stenographer receives the audio feed via modem or internet, or by having the stenographer in the venue where the service is required.

Post-production captioning – After the video is created, captions are created and paired with the video file.

Captioning Options

See Approved Captioning and Transcription Vendors for UVA-approved vendors and do-it-yourself options.