Closed Captioning videos on Youtube

Educational Technology1 Comment

Closed captioning

Video and audio resources are a valuable way to supplement course materials, and over the past year our team has posted on this blog about how to create these types of resources and use Youtube to manage them. (Just click the Youtube or video tags below this post to see those posts.)

When creating a video it is also important to provide a text alternative. This is an accessibility requirement (see the World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act) , but also good practice for learning content. Research by the UK Office of Communications in 2006 indicated that 80% of the people who use closed captions on TV are not deaf or hard of hearing, but would use them when:

  • The dialogue is fast, unclear, over background noise or the speaker has an unfamiliar accent
  • The content was technical and they wanted to new or technical terms
  • They can’t use the sound on the video

For another perspective on this, take a look at the following video:

Captioning videos in Youtube

Youtube offers a few different ways to make captions available. First, they automatically create captions for videos in 10 languages. If you’ve ever watched the automatic captions it generates you’ll know that they typically contain a lot of errors. However, if the video has high-quality audio and the speakers are very clear, these are a good starting point for creating a transcript. Technical or domain-specific content will likely not be accurately capture, but there are easy ways to fix them by editing them directly in Youtube.

If you wrote a script for your video—or type out the transcript after you create the video—you can upload it to Youtube, and the system will sync it with your video. The same applies for any transcript you create.

How-to’s for captions

The Google support pages include detailed instructions on captioning YouTube videos. The National Center on Disability and Access in Education, a US-based organisation, has some good instructions on captioning in Youtube, including this explanation and video demonstration of the options mentioned above:


Youtube also automatically translates the closed captions and allows people to choose from over 300 language options. Like the automatic English captions, these sometimes miss the details of the dialogue, or result in unusual syntax. If having a translation is important, you can also upload your own .txt files with the translated text, and users can select which set of closed captions to view.

The next level: Crowd-sourcing

In Youtube you have the option to allow viewers to contribute their own subtitles and closed captions. This is something the owner of the video must to turn on (by default, it is not enabled). Google has step-by-step instructions on how to do this, what viewers need to do to submit captions, and then how the video owner can manage others’ contributions.

If you’ve used this feature before and have advice and stories to share, please comment on this post.


Office of Communications. (2006) Television Access Services – Review of the Code and guidance.

World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes ver 4.1 (2014) (Australian Human Rights Commission)


Image “A still frame showing simulated closed captioning in the pop-on style” from Wikipedia is in the public domain.

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