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Michigan State University

Creating Accessible Videos

This information is designed to assist a user in creating an accessible video. While no video is accessible natively, there are a few steps one can take to make their video accessible to help ensure their video is accessible to the widest possible audience.  

Most videos are only accessible to hearing and sighted individuals - to create an accessible video that can be experienced by a wider audience you need to address a few key items.

For your video to be accessible by those with limited or no hearing, you must provide video captions, (either closed captions, or open captions) or a transcript of the the video.  Captions being preferred as the text of the video will be displayed while viewing the images of the video.  

To better ensure your video can be heard by those with limited or no sight, it would be ideal to have a separate audio file of your video in a readily accessible format such as mp3.  Depending on where you are hosting your video from, you may already have an accessible player that can be operated with limited or no sight by the use of assistive technology such as a screen reader.

Captioning and Transcripts

The standard way to ensure your video is accessible is to include either captioning or a transcript of the audio for the entire video.  It is generally preferred that captions be used to preserve the viewing experience of the video and that transcripts be either provided as an additional resource or if the act of captioning is not possible for some reason.  Transcripts are a great resource to add to any video, and can be a great benefit to all persons viewing the video.


There are two types of captions; closed captions, and open captions.  Closed captions are the most common in which the text for a video is contained in a separate text file that is overlayed (or displayed) when chosen.  Closed captions have a time based code to ensure that the correct text passages appear on screen with the corresponding video scenes.  Open captions, are captions that are permanently affixed to the video, in which they are always visible and cannot be turned off.  This type of caption is directly embedded as part of the video itself and is therefore not always as desirable as a portion of the screen will be obscured by the text regardless if the captions are needed.


A transcript is a text file that contains all of the spoken audio in the video.  Transcripts may or may not contain time stamps but do flow in a linear fashion as to the duration of the video.  Transcripts may read as a document, or as an actual script.  Each party that is speaking is to be identified prior to their written text, so when read the reader knows which party was saying each portion of the text.

Creating Captions

There are several ways in which captions can be created.  Depending on where your video is to be stored and viewed from will determine how you will need to go about creating captions.  Due to the complexity of the various ways video can be stored and viewed, we will only cover a few of the more popular methods, but please know that with almost any medium there is an option for captioning, whether that video is stored on a public or private network, or Internet service (such as YouTube) or contained locally on a CD/DVD.  It is entirely the creator/owner/author of the video to ensure they have taken the appropriate steps to ensure their video is accessible.

Creating Captions for Videos on YouTube

YouTube has created an automated speech-to-text algorithm that will scan your uploaded video and attempt to produce a machine coded (time stamped) closed caption file.  This first automatic pass is rarely accurate but it will give you a head start on creating your captions.  The time codes mark where the audio begins and maps it as best it can to the dictionary that YouTube is using.  More often than not you will have to edit the captions to reflect the actual spoken words accurately, but in general YouTube does all the heavy lifting for you, all you need to do is edit the text.

Some helpful links to aid in captioning videos for YouTube include:

Understanding captions in YouTube

Using Automatic Captions

Adding/Editing Captions and Subtitles in YouTube

Creating Captions with MAGpie (Windows OS only)

At the time of this publication the product MAGpie still exists and is a software application that allows you to control the playback of a video so you may create a closed captions track for the particular video.

Here are instructions on using MAGpie.

Custom Captioning Solutions

Depending on your captioning needs, you may be better off looking to a paid service to do the captioning for you.  Many services offer competitive rates by the minute of length of video.  These services allow for you to supply them with your videos(s) and then they will provide you with the corresponding captioned files.

Creating Transcripts

One of the most efficient ways to create a video transcript is to prepare ahead of time by formulating a script to be used when creating a video.  If you take the time to create a script for a recorded video it will be very beneficial, not only to the participants in the video, but also after the fact as a transcript of the video.  If you do not have a script that can be used, or the video is of a source where a script was not possible to create you will then need to create one from scratch.

Using Software to create a transcript

There are many different software packages that allow for the manipulation of video playback so you can create a transcript.  You may use a generic video player and utilize the play/pause controls to simply create a text document that contains the audio portion of the video.  Or there are other tools on the market (ranging from free to pay for fees) that allow you to more easily control playback while typing.

Here are a few free software packages

If you were able to get automatic captioning performed on a video from YouTube than you can simply download the caption file and create a transcript from the captioning by using a word processor to edit the captions back into readable sentence structures.