Closed Captioning

For questions about closed captioning, or to request closed captions, contact Carolyn Dorr.

Why we need to add closed captions to video

There are many reasons to add closed captions to video:

  • It's the right thing to do. According to several sources, about 20 percent of Americans report some degree of hearing loss. Closed captions allow these people to follow along and not miss out on the nuances of the audio part of a video. YouTube does have an automatic captioning (speech recognition) feature, but those automatically generated captions are usually riddled with errors so are arguably worse than no captions at all. For some examples of bad automatic closed captions, search YouTube for "caption fail".

  • Closed captions can help those who may not be fluent in the language in which the audio is presented.

  • Closed captions can help those learning how to read.

  • Closed captions allow viewers to follow along with a video in a noisy environment, or when the sound is muted.

  • Proper closed captions help people find your YouTube video. A study by Discovery Digital Networks concluded that Google indexes closed captions uploaded to YouTube videos, which makes them more likely to rank higher in searches for relevant keywords. The same study found that these captions are indexed by YouTube's search feature. However, YouTube's automatic captions are NOT indexed.

  • Not having closed captions on your video will have legal ramifications:
    Recently there have been several lawsuits brought against major universities in regards to web accessibility. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are two such universities. The complaint is that their online videos are not closed captioned or are incorrectly closed captioned. The plaintiff is the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), on behalf of its members and four members of the deaf community. The NAD sought enforcement of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Harvard and MIT filed motions to dismiss. In June 2015 the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) argued in favor of the NAD and a magistrate agreed in February 2016. That meant that, barring an objection from the District Judge (of Massachusetts), the lawsuit would proceed without delay.

    These cases are being watched closely by universities, colleges, and eLearning companies, as it would set a precedent for broader application of closed captioning requirements in education--and possibly other industries as well.

IT at UNI has created a captioning service. We can create closed captions for your YouTube channel as well as Panopto and other types of video.


Carolyn Dorr - IT Accessibility Coordinator, Client Services
  • ITTC 36
  • (319) 273-5555
  • Service Hub