Accessible videos include playback controls for keyboard use, play only when activated (rather than as page loads), and closed captions or is accompanied by a full-text transcript.

example of closed captioning from One UCSF: Virtuous Circle

The Case for Captioning at UCSF

You may see there are plenty of videos on the web with no or poor captioning. If others are breaking the law, and it is law, it does not excuse UCSF from the obligation to take the higher road and do the right thing – provide accurate captioning with videos.

We are a public institution and a service to our community and the world. We “make the possible – possible”. This applies to all of us at UCSF not just our doctors and researchers.

Yes, it will take some planning and an extra step. But the return on investment is great. Not only will it make it possible for people with hearing impairments to be included, the addition of accurate captioning improves the user experience for all.

Accurate captioning:

  • Increased comprehension of content
  • Improves Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Overcomes situational or temporally unavailable audio

Accurate captions are not only a great idea, they are required by UCSF policy. More from the University of California Office of the President on transcripts and captioning and a quick reference guide from Dave Giberson of the San Diego Community College District Online Learning Pathways group.

Example of captioning accuracy for a speaker with an accent.


The high quality audio recording and the attention to detail of the captioning for this video make understanding a heavy accent easy. Video, audio, and closed captioning by our own UCSF Documents & Media department.

Further reading (from various caption services) on caption quality and accuracy:

You Have Many Good Choices for Captioning

Depending on the nature of your video(s) one of the following choices will work. Whichever path you chose, you are in control and the outcome depends on what you put into it.

DIY YouTube and Vimeo or Outsource

Add subtitles and closed captions yourself with YouTube’s Creator Tools or Vimeo’s Amara. YouTube and Vimeo also offer paid services and there are many other outsourcing options available to suit your needs and budget. You may find this blog post by Deborah Edwards-Onoro, Transcripts and Captions: Do-It-Yourself or Outsource? helpful.

DIY Captioning: Cost is time invested but otherwise free. YouTube offers good, free captioning interface with the tools you need to do a thorough job with rapid a turnaround time.

UCSF Internal Video Services: From on-site filming crews to Classroom capture – any UCSF internal video production offers to caption with the production of your video.

Documents & Media: Video Production

Educational Technology Services: Classroom Capture and Video Production

Use a Captioning Service

There are several captioning service providers recommended by your peers (see sidebar). They offer various price and quality points. Those listed have the required option to correct the captions for accuracy after processing and before attaching to the video.


Transcripts provide a textual version of the content that can be accessed by anyone. They also allow the content of your multimedia to be searchable, both by computers (such as search engines) and by end users.

Translation Services

UCSF Interpretation and Language Services is now expanding translation services for health-related public-facing videos.

Here is a sample of one of their videos with Chinese captions "What to Expect During Your Next Visit to UCSF Health."

In addition to captioning translations, they also offer dubbing in Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin for short videos (4 minutes or less). In addition, they have the capability to add conference style interpreting to live Webinars for Cantonese, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Future plans include the ability to add an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter (in addition to captions in English) to videos.

Video Player Controls

Allow user control to stop, start, control volume and turn on or off closed captioning and chose the language when available.

Individuals who use screen reading software can find it hard to hear the speech output if there is another audio playing at the same time. This difficulty is exacerbated when the screen reader's speech output is software based (as most are today) and is controlled via the same volume control as the sound. Therefore, it is important that the user is able to turn off the background sound. Note: Having control of the volume includes being able to reduce its volume to zero.

  • Individuals who use screen reading technologies can hear the screen reader without other sounds playing. This is especially important for those who are hard of hearing and for those whose screen readers use the system volume (so they cannot turn the sound down and screen reader up).
  • This benefits people who have difficulty focusing on visual content (including text) when audio is playing. 

WCAG 2.0 Guidelines for Videos



1.2.1 – Audio-only and Video-only (Prerecorded)

Provide an alternative to video-only and audio-only content

1.2.2 – Captions (Prerecorded)

Provide captions for videos with audio

1.2.3 – Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded)

Video with audio has an alternative

1.2.4 – Captions (Live) (AA)

Live videos have captions

1.2.5 – Audio Description (Prerecorded) (AA)

Users have access to audio description for video content

    Overview of WCAG guidelines.

    W3C Web Accessibility Initiative's Making Audio and Video Media Accessible. User needs, how to make accessible. Making it accessible is more than just captions, there's audio description, speaker identification and player controls to consider. Provides another link to Planning Audio and Video Media with an excellent grid for how to apply WCAG to pre-recorded and live video and audio media.