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Creating Accessible Audio and Video Materials

To ensure an equivalent experience which provides effective communication for all, videos and audio-only content should be produced and delivered in ways to ensure all members of the audience can access and understand the content. Accessible video/audio includes captions, a transcript, audio description, and delivered in an accessible media player.

The primary resource for guidance on this topic at UVA is the Accessible Video and Audio Materials website hosted by the UVA Library.

There are generally two types of captioning to be aware of:

  • Live captioning
  • Post-production captioning

Live captioning is used when captions are provided during a live event. This event can be either in person (e.g. presentations, in class, major events such as graduation) or via the web (e.g. streaming a live event over the web, engaging in web conference).

Post-production captions are created after the live event has occurred and a recording has been made. The recording should not be made available until the captions have been created and checked for accuracy and adherence to best practices.

To assure an equal experience for individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (D/HoH), our goal is 100% accuracy for post-production captions – including sound effects, speaker identification and other information to maintain context. Although an accuracy rate of 99% is commonly seen as sufficient, it does allow for roughly 15 errors total per 1500 words – those errors could be critical to the context and content of the video.

When to Caption: General Guidelines

If you answer “yes” to any of the questions below, by default you should caption your event/materials. These guidelines apply to live events, streamed events, and recorded materials:

  • Is there an immediate accommodation need/request?
  • Is the event/material going to be publicly available?
  • Is the event/material going to be recorded and reused?
  • Will your event have an anticipated audience greater than 250 attendees?

If you are providing audio-only files (e.g. Podcasts, rebroadcast of radio programs), accurate transcripts must be made available at the same time the recording is available.

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) solutions for both live and post-production captioning are readily available from a number of sources. While technology is advancing rapidly in this area, captions created using ASR, such as those provided by Google for YouTube videos, are inadequate. The accuracy rate is commonly in 60% - 80% range, meaning that at least one out of every three words is incorrect. ASR is not a suitable solution for captioning when an accommodation request has been made.

Other situations not reflected by these questions may also require captioning. If you have questions, contact the Coordinator of Academic Accessibility at coaa@virginia.edu.

Requests for Accommodations and Advertisement of Event Services

If your anticipated audience does not meet the criteria mentioned above for captioning by default, a clearly visible statement in your event invitation/announcement asking if anyone participating will need accommodations will help you determine if live captioning or other accommodations will be required.

Even with captions in place, it is important that you also ask if other accommodations will be required by members of your audience. These accommodations may include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, event materials in alternative formats, etc.

It is also important that you include a statement in event marketing and/or invitation materials that captioning services and/or ASL will be available. Among other audience members, it allows the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community know they will be able to participate in your event.

A sample statement:
The University of Virginia is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. Please contact [name, email, phone] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs. Please contact us at least seven days prior to the start of this event.

Captioning/transcription guidance specific to UVA. Additional links are provided on the UVA Library site:

Audio Description

Audio descriptions provide a verbal description of the visual images and are intended as accommodations for individuals who are blind or with low vision. This service can be provided for video but can also be part of live cultural events. In some cases, the information provided via the program itself is sufficient. However, when this is not the case, supplemental audio which provides a brief description of the video is required. It is time intensive, expensive, and an art. However, as technology improves, providing audio descriptions for video is becoming easier through tools such as YouDescribe and vendors such as 3Play Media.

Audio Description (Prerecorded) is part of the WCAG 2 - Level AA level of Success Criterion (1.2.5) which is the standard we use to meet University Policy.