Spotlight 7


(WCAG 1.2.2 & 1.2.4)

In the next few spotlights, we’ll be looking at the 9 WCAG guidelines (1.2.1 - 1.2.9) relating to making time-based media, such as audio and video content, accessible. Note that these guidelines solely focus on making the content within the audio or video accessible and these don’t include standards relating to how audio and video content are to be used (eg 1.4.2).

What we cover in this spotlight

Because this is an extensive topic with 9 guidelines, we’ve divided the topic into 3 spotlights:

So, in this spotlight, let’s have a look at the A and AA requirements related to captions. 

What are the guidelines for captions?

Providing captions is an A (basic) requirement for pre-recorded videos that have sound (1.2.2) and it’s an AA (intermediate) requirement for live content such as a webinar (1.2.4). 

What are captions?

Captions are similar to subtitles in that they should include dialogue that is synchronized to the spoken words and any action happening in the video. However, the difference is that, unlike subtitles, captions also need to include any information necessary to fully understand the video without any sound. For that reason, it should also indicate who is speaking and include any non-speech information like change in voice or background sounds. 

To comply, either open or closed captions can be used. The difference is that open captioning burns the captions into the video and therefore there’s no way to make them disappear whereas closed captions (cc) can be turned off. In general, it’s best to use closed captioning because it gives flexibility to the viewer to switch the captioning off if they find it distracting. If, however, the video platform doesn’t allow caption files to be edited or added, it’s best to use open captioning than no captions.

Open  caption Burned into the video  Can't be turned off. Closed  caption Uploaded as a separate file Can be turned on of or off

How do you create captions?

There are two ways to add subtitles to video content: manually and automatically. Manually works great if you have a copy of the script used in the video that you could copy and paste in. This might not always be the case though, so automatic subtitling can help generate the script quickly. Note, that I used the word “subtitles” and not “captions”. That is because in most cases, scripts and auto-generated “captions” only capture the speech and you should still add any additional notes, such as speakers and non-speech information. In addition, if you use automatic captioning, make sure to check the accuracy of the content and fix any mistakes as they often include misheard words and irregular punctuation.

Captions Includes non-verbal info (eg: speakers and non-speech cues). Subtitles Only includes the spoken words

Final notes

Note that while it’s best practice to use captioning whenever possible, video content that is used in addition to text and two-way conferencing are exempt from these guidelines. Also note that there are some additional AAA guidelines that also recommend providing captions or an alternative for live audio-only content such as podcasts and providing sign-language interpretations for pre-recorded video content. But we’ll cover these in spotlight 9.


Discussion questions:

Get Involved: Come to the LCA Spotlight LinkedIn group and join the conversation.

When you post in the community, use the hashtag #LCASpotlightCaptions

Spotlight 6: Meaningful sequence and focus order

Spotlight 8: Transcripts and audio descriptions