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Closed Captioning Videos: Facts and Support

Quick Facts about Captions

  • Closed captions benefit everyone by providing support for the perception of, attention to, retention for, and comprehension of video content (Gernsbacher, 2015). They are especially beneficial and/or necessary for some individuals, including those who are deaf, have hearing loss or audio processing disabilities, or those who are English language learners.  
  • UT System Policy and Federal non-discrimination laws call for highly accurate captions of all video content.  
  • Automatic captions, such as those generated by Canvas Studio and YouTube may vary widely in accuracy. To achieve maximum user benefit and ensure compliance with local and federal policy and law, it is important to review and correct these captions, as needed.  
  • UT Knoxville partners with a captioning vendor if individuals, departments, or other groups would like to pay for professional captions – contact the OIT HelpDesk.  

Policies and Laws  

  • UT System Policy IT0126 established a standard of accessibility for all “electronic information” to be conformant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 at level AA Success Criteria. The AA level includes all guidelines in both A and AA levels.   
  • WCAG 2.0 criteria 1.2.2 states: Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such. (Level A) 
  • WCAG 2.0 emphasizes principle-based approaches to accessibility, not compliance. The principle criteria 1.2.2 serves is that materials should be perceivable for all users. This implies a high degree of accuracy, such that a deaf user would be able to perceive all relevant audio and speech.  
  • UT is also bound by federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, all of which have provisions for captioning in the workplace, in education, and with regards to electronic information and information technology.  
  • Litigation around these laws, such as NAD v. MIT and Harvard has served to clarify that captions must be highly accurate to fulfill compliance with these laws.  

Automatic Captions  

Automatic captions generated by Canvas Studio, YouTube, and similar are often helpful and generally recommended, but they are generally not by themselves sufficient to comply with WCAG, ADA, or the Rehabilitation Act. These types of captions generally are accurate at a rate of about 80%, which means that there is an error in one out of every five words. That said, captions generated by Canvas Studio or YouTube may be manually checked for accuracy and corrected to maximize usability and achieve compliance relevant to policies, guidelines, and laws.  

Resources and Support  

DIY Captions: 

Vendor Captions 

  • Request a consultation and/or request vendor captioning support from OIT by visiting the HelpDesk 

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