Captions and Online Video
Learning resources have changed throughout time and we are in an ever increasing multi-media environment where the use of video content, particularly online, is increasing rapidly. YouTube, Vimeo, Echo recordings of lectures and similar mediums are increasingly becoming the norm. Tertiary education is no longer an environment of lectures and printed materials. Consideration needs to be given to the accessibility of the learning materials, all learning mediums and the materials used.
The Disability Discrimination Act, 1992 (DDA) requires that people with disability be given equal opportunity to participate in and contribute to the full range of social, political and cultural activities. In the Education and Training sector, access for people with disability, including access to the goods, services and facilities provided by tertiary education institutions, can no longer be an after-thought. The DDA is not about limited or 'parallel' access, but promotes and protects equality of access - physical, informational and attitudinal. Australian Human Rights Commission, 2016 .
Increasingly, videos, particularly those that are accessed online, are becoming a valued resource used within the higher education and training sectors. A vast array of videos is available to demonstrate almost every topic. While the DDA and the Disability Standards for Education, 2005 (The Standards) are silent on captioning of videos specifically, the intention of the DDA in requiring equal opportunity and access for people with disability is clear, with the implication that in order for students with a range of disabilities to have equity of access, captions and/or transcripts must be provided for video resources.
The Disability Standards for Education, 2005 state in section 6, that:
- The education provider must take reasonable steps to ensure that the course or program is designed in such a way that the student is, or any student with a disability is, able to participate in the learning experiences (including the assessment and certification requirements) of the course or program, and any relevant supplementary course or program, on the same basis as a student without a disability, and without experiencing discrimination.
On the same basis as a student without a disability – this means a student with a related disability that prevents access to these videos must have alternative access. In the case of a student with a hearing loss and some who have specific learning disabilities such as autism, this can mean that access to captioning or transcripts of these videos is essential.
It is important that video content is compliant with WCAG 2.0 guidelines, as endorsed by the Australian Government under the Disability Discrimination Act, 1992. Australian Government agencies are required to ensure information and services are provided in a non-discriminatory manner. As the WCAG 2.0 is endorsed as the standard for Australian Government website information – this is the minimum standard that educational institutions should provide.
Making the argument for captions
Captioned videos not only benefit people who have hearing loss and associated disabilities, but also meet the needs of many other disability groups and address a number of environmental and legislative requirements, including:
- People with a range of learning disabilities;
- People who speak English as a second language;
- Content accessability in noisy environments such as cafes, on public transport or even in shared accommodation;
- Protection against complaints (DDA and WCAG 2.0);
- More flexible useability; and
- Increased market reach of some materials.
3PlayMedia have produced a white paper describing the 8 benefits of transcribing and captioning video.
Captions: Australians are turning on (Wayne Hawkins, Ramp Up), stated that more than 6.5 million Australians use closed captions some of the time while watching television. In his research conducted, he found that even though approximately 18.5% of the population are Deaf or have a hearing impairment, around 33% of people said they used captions 'some of the time'. Further, of those who said they used captions 'some of the time', the largest group was young people, aged 18-24. This would indicate a high level of preference among people in the main student age range in the post-secondary sectors.
Similarly, in 2014 the United Kingdom Office of Communications (OfCom) found that 80% of people who use captions do not have hearing loss or associated disability.
The University of Washington has an outstanding page on its website with information, how-to guides and links. Their video Captions: Improving Access to Postsecondary Education provides excellent reasoning for the use of captioning in educational settings.
It is important to note that many videos require permission from the owner or producers before they can be captioned or transcribed. Permission must be sought from the owner or producer to caption or provide a transcript of such videos. Although this can be time consuming, every effort should be made to seek permission. If this is not granted then alternative, accessible resources should be considered.
Ultimately it is best to use videos that have captions – not auto generated captions, but true captions (and/or transcripts). Thought needs to be given during the selection of learning materials and only videos that are accessible should be selected. When in-house videos are created, these must also be captioned.
Captions vs transcripts
The use of captions cannot be discussed without a corresponding discussion of the value of transcripts of video resources. While as a general rule, all video resources should be captioned, some people with a hearing loss or associated disabilities prefer a transcript to captions.
Advice from several Disability Officers and Deaf advocates suggest that where a transcript cannot be generated for an online video resource, consideration should be given to making the transcript available with the link to the video so that all students can avail themselves of its benefit.
Transcripts can be scanned, searched, downloaded, printed, annotated and converted to new formats such as Braille. They can be a valuable resource for blind and vision impaired students who find most video resources just as inaccessible as students with hearing loss and associated disabilities.
Copyright and captioning third party videos
There is still debate among copyright lawyers as to the legalities of using YouTube clips in an education setting in any capacity. However, the growing consensus is that the use of these videos falls under fair use and that universities and other learning institutions should treat them the same as any other resource for copyright purposes. Adding captions – in essence changing the copyrighted material - where the copyright is held by someone other than the end user, is viewed less favourably and may constitute a breach of copyright. Lecturing staff need to make themselves aware of the risks and benefits of using video resources from sources such as YouTube before making them required viewing in their course and should consult the YouTube Terms of Service before captioning any video.
Staff wanting to use uncaptioned third party videos in the education setting should make those videos optional or consider alternate accessible videos if possible.
However, if they are essential
- contact the creator and obtain permission to add captions, or
- provide transcripts, which are the equivalent text alternative.
How to add captions to YouTube videos
For those wishing to proceed with use of YouTube and other Internet-sourced videos, there are a number of tools to assist with captions.
YouTube itself has an automated captioning tool. However, it is only useful if the dialogue is clear and doesn’t necessarily help with sound description. A poorly captioned YouTube video may leave the institution open to a complaint of discrimination. There are a number of websites that offer ‘how-to’ guides for those who have never used this feature:
Other video captioning solutions
Amara is a tool used by many education providers to facilitate captioning of online videos. It allows for a user to insert captions themselves or to submit it to be captioned by members of the Amara community. Information about getting started with Amara can be found here.
Captions can be quickly generated in Amara by downloading the auto generated caption file from YouTube, loading it into Amara, quickly making edits and then reloading it back to YouTube. Through this process, time can be saved when compared with generating a transcript.
Captioning, Audio Description and Transcription Suppliers
There are a number of businesses that can professionally provide transcripts and add captions to videos under contract to the institution. They cannot add captions to third party videos without evidence of permission however.
- Captions; Australian are turning on, Wayne Hawkins, Ramp Up, 7 February 2011
- Did You Know? 80 Percent of People Who Use Closed Captions Are Not Hard of Hearing, Lily Bond, June 6, 2014
- Harvard and MIT Face Lawsuit for Lack of Online Captioning, Dian Schaffhauser, February 12, 2015
- Media Access Australia
- Disability Discrimination Act Action Plans: A Guide for the Tertiary Education Sector
- University of Washington Accessible Technology
- YouTube’s Terms of Service