Captioning: The How and Why of Making Media Accessible
Captioning is a research-based component of accessible educational material shown in educational literature to improve literacy. Also a component of universally designed instruction, captions provide users with a text alternative to audio content embedded in various media types. Captions provide information relative to who is speaking, the dialogue taking place, and even the kind of sounds and music presented auditorily. Captioning can benefit not only individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, but many others as well, including people in situations where sound may be deliberately turned down or off.
The provision of captions is supported by both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Sections 508 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Any organization or project which receives federal funding is tasked to provide captions, making content accessible for all. Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has developed captioning regulations.
Did You Know? You can use tools to create your own captions.
The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) has developed the only in-depth, research-based guidelines for captions. They can be found in their captioning key. Even after you learn how to properly caption, you will need to reference the DCMP captioning key to make sure you are using the correct standards of caption production.
The world of free and available auto-generated captions is advancing quickly. YouTube features auto-generated captions in playback. Both PowerPoint and Google Slides now have auto caption options when in presentation mode. Microsoft Translator is an app which translates into English and other languages from voice, text, and images in real time. It should be noted that "auto-generated" does not necessarily equate to "accessible."
Whether you are a professional working with individuals who are deaf/hard of hearing or someone who is interested in captioning material, there are myriads of resources available for captioning your own videos/materials. It is best to start your project with the end in mind. If you think about captions at the beginning, it will make it easier to complete post-production. And, remember, if you're tasked, don't ask!