Who is Closed Captioning for?

Closed captioning and subtitles allow an individual who is D/deaf or hard of hearing to read and comprehend what is occurring in a video through words displayed on-screen. Research now supports the idea that closed captioning may also be beneficial to more than just the individuals who rely on eAccessibility tools and techniques.

The following video is an example illustrating closed captioning. (NOTE: You may need to turn the captions on by activating the "CC" button.)


Closed Captions are text alternatives for the audio in a televised program or streaming video that typically appear at the bottom of the screen, and aim to describe dialogue, speaker identification, and music or sound effects for the D/deaf and hard of hearing.

Subtitles, similar to closed captions, are text alternatives for the audio in films from streaming television services or distributed on DVD/Blu-ray. They typically only reflect on-screen dialogue, and can be toggled on and off by the viewer. Subtitles are often used for foreign language translation and to aid in understanding speech clearly.


Closed captioning benefits all individuals

Closed captioning and subtitles are characteristically associated with the D/deaf and hard of hearing, but a growing body of evidence suggests that captioned video is beneficial to all viewers.

A meta-analysis of more than a hundred empirical studies, completed by the National Institutes of Health in October 2015, cataloged a myriad of benefits to viewing captions including the ability to:

  • Summarize main ideas (Markham, 2000–2001)
  • Recall key facts (Brasel & Gips, 2014)
  • Draw inferences (Linebarger et al., 2010)
  • Define words (Griffin & Dumestre, 1992–1993)
  • Identify emotions (Murphy-Berman & Whobrey, 1983)
  • Answer multiple-choice comprehension questions (Hinkin, Harris, & Miranda, 2014; Markham & Peter, 2002–2003; Murphy-Berman & Jorgensen, 1980).


Closed captioning benefits for students

In a recent national study, Student Uses and Perceptions of Closed Captions & Transcripts, conducted by Oregon State University’s Ecampus Research Unit, nearly 99% of students reported that they found captions helpful. Additionally, 52% of students surveyed said that viewing captioned content improved their comprehension, while 27.3% of study participants reported using captions to enhance their understanding of challenging vocabulary – a benefit observed within the UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences.

Choosing videos that already contain closed captioning, or planning to incorporate closed captioning when creating new videos, will help to provide an alternative way for individuals to understand the information. By using this eAccessibility technique, you can begin to create accessible content from the start, opening the doors to new possibilities for students and potential students along the way. 


Prioritizing Captioning Efforts

The university is actively engaging in ways to make it possible for faculty to incorporate captions for all video content to meet the WCAG 2.1 AA standards. The following guidelines should be used when planning for course video captioning:

  • Videos used on public-facing websites must be captioned. These include videos found on the university’s website.
  • Videos used in a class with an identified accommodation must be captioned. If a student with an identified accommodation is in attendance, faculty will be contacted by the central Accessibility Resources Office so support can be provided.
  • Videos used in a class without an identified need for accommodation are not required to contain captioning, but it is strongly recommended. In order to facilitate future accommodation needs, any video that can be captioned now is encouraged. Media players like YouTube and Kaltura may provide opportunities for no-cost “mechanical” or auto captions that can be edited to increase accuracy. For more information, please visit the KB articles on captioning YouTube videos and captioning videos housed in Kaltura, or contact your division’s Kaltura technical contact with questions.


Written for the Accessibility Network by IT@UC's eLearning Instructional Technologist, Dave Rathbun and EIT Coordinator Heidi Pettyjohn.

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