UW-IT's Captioning Project: A Promising Practice in Setting up a Captioning Project on a College Campus

Date Updated

Many videos on campuses are captioned only as an accommodation for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, even though they benefit many others, including English language learners, those with reading-related disabilities, and individuals who simply want to see the spelling of words spoken in the presentation. The University of Washington’s UW-IT Free Captioning Project was developed as an effort to promote proactive captioning of videos on campus. By offering free captioning, the Accessible Technology Services (ATS) division of UW-IT is increasing the number of videos captioned on campus, educating stakeholders, and raising awareness of the importance of captioning and the processes involved adding captions to videos. The Free Captioning Project team secured central funding for this project, justifying it as promoting a best practice in education as well as an activity that helps the campus meet its legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Staff of the UW Free Captioning Project developed the following steps and helpful hints to assist other campuses in setting up a captioning project.

  • Secure funding.
  • Develop an application that requests information about the video and the applicant.
    • For the video, ask for the length, how it will impact the campus, the estimated number of individuals that will watch the video, when the video will be available, the link to the video (if available), what type of file format is needed for the caption file (e.g., .srt, .vtt), and/or transcript file type (e.g., .doc, .txt).
    • Ask for the name, email address, position, and department of the applicant.
  • Set up an account with a captioning vendor.
  • Create templates for emails for advertising, for your approval process, and for a reply to the applicant when accepting/declining videos for the project.
  • Decide how you will obtain the files to be captioned. For example:
    • If an applicant has more than one .mp4 file for videos, setup a file to share the videos and captioning files using a file sharing service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Create a system for naming the drive (e.g., applicant name and department).
    • Use subfolders with the project name within the shared folder, if the applicant has more than one application approved.
    • Have applicants upload files and notify you when new videos are added.
  • Determine how you will send the new captioned files back to the applicant. For example, when the vendor has completed captioning you could upload the captioning files to the file shared folder and notify the applicant that the file is ready or you could download the .srt file or other file format as needed and email it back to applicant.
  • Have an approval process in place. Identify staff who will receive, review, and decline/approve applications.
  • Advertise the availability of the program in a variety of ways including in newsletters, on a website, and via email and social media. When advertising the project, indicate that it is for proactive captioning and not an accommodation for a specific individual (because that serve should be already provided by a campus disability services office).
  • Track the progress of your project. The system you use should be designed to capture applicant information and progress through the captioning process (e.g., waiting for approval, being captioned, or complete).

Helpful hints:

  • When uploading the videos to the vendor site you may need to compress files to meet vendor limits.
  • Create custom settings and share the information with the vendor for transcription services to ensure that speakers are labeled properly.
  • When replying to the applicant that their submission is approved, send them information and encourage them to setup their own account with the caption vendor and continue captioning their videos in the future.
  • Create or find links for tutorials for uploading captions to different platforms (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo).

For additional resources and information on creating accessible videos consult the following resources:

Additional knowledge base articles about captioning include the following: