Captioning and Accessibility Guidelines

Purchasing, Captioning, Digitizing, and Converting DVDs, VHS Tapes, and other Commercial Video Productions

Captions are essential to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Captions also benefit those who are learning disabled or learning English as a second language.  Captions are also a great tool for improving the reading comprehension and listening skills of students.  Retention of material, search engine optimization, and higher user satisfaction are additional benefits.  Therefore, captions should be displayed whether or not there is an identified student with a disability.

The College is responsible for providing accessibility.  Faculty are responsible to assure that the videos shown in class are captioned.  Captions provide accessibility in compliance with Section 504 and 508. Disabled Student Programs and Services is not responsible for captioning videos, providing transcripts or interpreting during the playing of a non-captioned video.  Faculty should make sure audio, visual, and written materials are accessible before distributing them to the class.  To maximize learning for all students, consideration of the concepts of Universal Design should be incorporated when designing a course. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  I have or am planning to purchase a DVD that I want to show to my class. It has closed captions. May I do so?

A:  Yes, as long as the captions display automatically or the device you are using allows you to turn them on. Showing a video program or movie to your class for educational purposes, rather than entertainment, is generally considered fair use under copyright law.

Q:  Are subtitles the same thing as captions?

A:  Captions are not the same as subtitles. Captions are always in the language spoken and indicate who is speaking. They also provide text to indicate music, sounds, and other auditory content, not just speech. Subtitles may be an acceptable substitute for captioning if all speech is subtitled, if there is little ambiguity as to who is speaking, and if the absence of other non-captioned auditory content does not alter the meaning or intent of the production. Media Services staff are trained to analyze video productions and make this determination.

Q:  I have a transcript of the production. Can that be substituted for captions?

No, it cannot. A printed transcript cannot be synchronized with the action of the video production and thus, cannot adequately communicate its meaning or intent. However, a transcript can be useful in the process of creating captions.

Q:  What do I do if my class is online?

A:  For an online class, all video productions must be captioned, digitized, and made available to students from the library video repository via TalonNet or the library website. If a captioned DVD is also available, it can be added to the library collection and/or placed on reserve. Contact Media Services ( or for assistance.

Q:  I have a DVD (or VHS tape, or YouTube video) I want to show to my class, but it is not captioned. How can I get it captioned?

A:  That depends on who holds the copyright. All video productions are copyrighted, regardless of the owner, format, or distributor of the recording. The first step is to see if a different or newer captioned version of the production is available. If a captioned version is available for purchase on DVD, it will be necessary to buy and use the captioned version. If no captioned version is available, it may be possible to add captions to the existing version you have. However, since it will be necessary in most cases to copy the production to another medium in order to add captions, it will also be necessary to obtain permission from the copyright holder, if possible. Contact Media Services as soon as possible for guidance and assistance.

Q:  Is using the “auto captioning” or “CC” tool on YouTube and other online video sites sufficient?

A:  No.  Unfortunately, using the “CC” option or the auto-captioning in YouTube is not always accurate.  The current technology for use of “Auto-Captioning” produces captions that are not readable or the content is inaccurate.  Therefore, it is critical that you review the YouTube video in before showing it in the classroom.  If the captions are inaccurate, contact Media Services for assistance. There are methods for adding accurate captions to YouTube and other online videos.

Q:  What is the process for adding captions to an uncaptioned video production when no captioned version is commercially available?

A:  There are several different options for adding captions to a video production on DVD or VHS tape, but it is fairly complex and requires significant time and research. You should contact Media Services as soon as possible for assistance since this process could take several weeks or more. Media Services will analyze the production and investigate copyright status, determine whether the production should be digitized for streaming via the internet or retained in a physical format, coordinate acquisition of usage rights with the library, facilitate the addition of captions, add digitized and captioned productions to the library video repository, create a link for streaming via TalonNet, and coordinate all other technical aspects of the process.

Q:  What is the process for purchasing a video production I wish to show to my class?

A:  The first step is to determine whether or not the production is captioned. If it is and you wish to retain the physical medium (DVD) in your department or division, then an approved requisition may be submitted to Purchasing, and division or department funds may be expended. However, Purchasing will only order media that include closed captions and are fully accessible. Alternatively, if the production is not captioned or if you wish the library to purchase the production using library funds and add it to the library collection, you may submit an online request to the library via the library website: ( The library would then assume responsibility for acquiring a captioned version of the production (and/or the rights to convert it to a captioned version and digitize it) and work with Media Services staff on campus to add it to the library video repository. Faculty would then be able to stream the accessible production to their classroom or online class from the video repository via the internet and TalonNet. The production would also be available for faculty and students for streaming via the library website and as a DVD that could be placed on reserve and checked out from the library.

Q:  What if I have more questions or need assistance or more information?

A:  If you would like the library to acquire a video production that you can show to your class, please contact a librarian. If you need assistance with buying a video for your department, please contact Purchasing. For assistance with captioning your videos, contact Media Services. If you need technical assistance with integrating your captioned videos into your TalonNet course site, send a message to