Captions: An easy way to improve accessibility


Captioning tutorials has long been on my to-do list. It’s a best practice and greatly improves the usefulness and accessibility of web video, but it was daunting both technically and time-wise.

After trying it, I can definitely say I was wrong.

Captioning is both faster and easier than it sounds. The entire process, from getting started and looking for the documentation to adding the final product, took 30 minutes. For something I had never done before, I was really happy with how quickly I got results.

Since I was captioning a Canvas how-to video, I started with the Instructure documentation on adding captions to a Canvas video. (If you aren’t using Canvas, the documentation is still helpful, and there’s a separate page for creating captions for other videos.) Canvas redirects to the free service Amara, which puts your video into a frame so you can create the subtitles. Each step is demonstrated in a short 1-2 min. video, followed by hands on time, and the beginner setting allows you to work in easy four-second chunks. When you are done, just create an account and download the subtitles to use with your video (on Canvas, YouTube, etc.).

Captioning was an easy way to improve the accessibility of our documentation materials (second only to better alt text). We will be adding captions to our videos going forward to ensure we are creating usable materials, and I encourage you to do the same.

About Catherine Odson

I'm the Courseware Support Librarian at Penn. I support faculty, students and staff using Blackboard and other courseware systems run by the Libraries.

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