Disability & Accessibility Resources

Division of Student Life

Captioning Guidelines for Videos and Virtual Events

Produced by the Digital Accessibility Collaborative
Last updated February 2021

As more events take place virtually, and more video materials are posted online, captioning has become especially important to ensure everyone can participate in our programs and access our videos. Captions may be a legally required accommodation in some cases, but they are also beneficial for a much broader audience:

  • Captions help all people who are deaf or hard of hearing better understand and experience video, even if they don’t have an accommodation.
  • Captions help non-native English speakers better understand video content.
  • Users are better able to learn specialized terminology in discipline-specific or technical videos.
  • In environments where people can’t play audio, they can use captions instead.

When you don’t know who is in the audience or how recorded video might be used in the future, it is always best practice to provide captions.

There are two main types of captions:

  1. Captions of live events, or real-time captioning. These are often referred to as CART (Computer Assisted Real-time Translation) services.
  2. Captions of recorded videos and films, sometimes referred to as “post-production captions.”

Captions can be either automated or created by professional captioners. When captioning is needed for accommodation or accessibility reasons, automated captioning is generally not adequate. Coordinating captioning services can take time, so it is important to plan ahead.

The following guide will help you determine the type of captioning needed, whether it is required, and how to do it.

Note: This guide does not apply to course materials and class sessions for courses in which a student with a disability requires captioning. If you are a faculty member and you have received notification from DAR that a student requires captioning as a course accommodation, DAR will work with you to create an individualized captioning plan for your course.

Captioning of videos and films

I’m publishing a video. Does the video need to be captioned?

All Reed-created videos that are available to the public must be captioned, including videos posted to Reed websites and Reed social media feeds.

If the video will be available only to members of the Reed community (i.e., a Reed username and password is required for viewing), and the intended audience of the video is small, then you should provide a means for the audience to let you know if they need captioning or other accommodations. If you receive an accommodation request, then the video should be captioned.

If the video will be available to a large audience, such as the entire Reed community, even if a Reed username and password is required, then the video should be captioned.

As a best practice, anyone creating video content should include transcription and captioning as a normal part of the production process. 

How do I caption a video?

There are several options for captioning a video:

  1. Hire a captioning service (i.e., send your video to an outside vendor). Be sure to request captioning rather than a transcript. Reed does not currently have a preferred vendor for captioning services but can recommend Rev.com ($1.25/minute as of January 2021). 
  2. Caption it yourself in Ensemble. Ensemble, Reed’s media server, can publish videos that are viewable by the general public or that are limited to the Reed community. ITS can train you, other staff, or student workers on how to add captions in Ensemble. The training itself takes about 15 minutes. From there, plan to spend at least five times the length of your video on adding captions. If you are working from a full transcript of the video, adding captions may go faster.
  3. Caption it yourself using the YouTube Caption Editor. If you have a YouTube channel for sharing videos, YouTube will likely generate automated captions for your videos. These machine-generated captions are typically not sufficiently accurate and will likely require manual editing in order to meet accuracy standards. If the captions can be perfected with only a few minor corrections, you can correct them directly in YouTube. For instructions see the Edit Captions help page on YouTube. If the automated captions require significant corrections, you may wish to outsource the captioning to a third-party service. Whether you are sending your video to an outside captioner or adding captions in house, plan to give yourself at least a week to get the video captioned.

How much does post-production captioning cost?

Captioning of recorded videos typically costs between $1.00 and $2.50 per minute (January 2021).

If you are paying hourly for captions done by a Reed student worker, you should assume that creating captions will take at least 5x the length of the video. In some cases, captioning might take up to 8x the length of the video.

Will I be asked to unpublish a video if it’s not captioned?

All public-facing video content on Reed websites and social media feeds must include captions. If you are unable to add captions to a video, it is best to remove it.

Can I provide a transcript rather than captioning the video?

Providing a stand-alone transcript is suitable for audio-only recordings. For videos, captioning must be embedded into the video.

Keep in mind, however, that creating a transcript is the first step in captioning a video. If you happen to have a transcript available, this will speed up the captioning process significantly if you are captioning the video yourself or hiring a student worker to do the captioning. You can find instructions for generating transcripts via Zoom.

Captioning for live events (real-time captioning)

I'm hosting a virtual event. Do I need to offer captioning?

All public virtual events should, at a minimum, provide automated captions for participants. For events that are only open to the Reed community, automated captions are optional but recommended. 

For all events, if an accommodation request is received for captioning services, then automated captions are not sufficient, and a professional captioning service should be hired to provide real-time captions. For high-profile events, such as commencement, professional captioning is strongly recommended even if you have not received an individual accommodation request.

Be sure to include an accessibility statement on all of your promotional and registration materials, advertising that automated captions will be provided and inviting participants to notify you of additional accommodation needs. You can find sample accessibility statements in this document.

How do I hire a professional captioner and integrate them into my virtual event? 

Reed does not currently have a preferred vendor for captioning services but can recommend the companies listed below. You may wish to contact several companies if you’re seeking the best price. Demand for captioning services is currently high nationwide so you should contact companies as early in the planning phase as possible. When hiring a vendor, be sure to follow Reed’s contract guidelines.

Once you’ve hired a captioning service, the company will assign an individual captioner to type captions during your event.

We recommend hosting your event on Zoom. You can find instructions for integrating the captioner into your Zoom event in our Zoom Captioning Guide.

Recommended captioning companies:

Can I use automated captioning rather than hiring a professional captioning service?

Automated or machine-generated captions created by platforms like Zoom and Google Meet are beneficial for a wide variety of users, though they may not be adequate for disability accommodation purposes. If someone has requested captioning for an event, you may ask them whether automated captioning would adequately meet their needs, or whether they prefer CART (i.e., live captioning services). From there, defer to their preference. If you're unsure of their needs, it's best to err on the side of making your event more accessible and hiring a professional captioning service.

If automated captioning is sufficient for your purposes, you can find instructions using the following links:

I’m hiring a professional captioning service. They offer both CART and Typewell services. What’s the difference, and which one should I use for my event?

Most real-time captioning companies offer two types of live captioning services: CART and Typewell. CART provides a word-for-word (verbatim) transcript of what is said. Typewell is a “meaning-for-meaning” service that ensures the overall meaning is conveyed via text, while removing speech that is extraneous to the meaning, such as false starts and filler words like “um” or “like.” 

We recommend using CART services, unless you receive an accommodation request for Typewell services, in which case you should defer to the individual’s preference.

How much does live captioning cost, and who pays for it?

Live captioning ranges from $80-$125 per hour for CART services and $60-$80 per hour for Typewell services.

Each department or office is responsible for captioning their own events. Much like planning for the costs of advertising, catering, and materials when hosting an event, accessibility and accommodations are an important part of event planning and budgeting. 

Departments in need of additional funds to ensure event accessibility may contact Rob Tust to discuss funding options. 

My question wasn’t answered, or I need help! Who can I contact?

You are welcome to email the Digital Accessibility Collaborative (dac@groups.reed.edu), and we will either answer your question or direct you to the person who can!