Office of Accessible Technology and Services

Definitions and Laws

What are captions?

Captions are synchronized words displayed at the same time with the audio portion of a video. They are like subtitles but different in that they are designed for those viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing. Captions may also identify speakers and may include music, laughter, or on-screen and background sound effects. Though intended for those who cannot hear the audio content, captions can help those whose primary languages are not English, enable us to view video in a noisy environment, learn new terminologies, and provide content information in more than one sensory modality.

California Education Code Section 67302.5 (a)(1) provides the following definition:

“Captioned” or “captioning” means the display of text corresponding to, and synchronized with, the spoken-word audio portion of instructional material.

Are captions required?

Yes, Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires all agencies receiving federal funding to make their electronic and information technology accessible to all people including those with disabilities. The Subpart B Technical Standards 1194.24(c)(b) of Section 508 for Video and Multimedia product further specifies:

“All training and informational video and multimedia productions… that contain speech or other audio information necessary for the comprehension of the content shall be open or closed captioned.”

Note: Captions can be open or closed. Open captions are permanently coded and displayed with the video and cannot be turned off whereas closed captions can be turned on and off.

“Captioning ensures equal access, an equal opportunity to participate, and effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.” ~National Association of the Deaf

Do all the videos I show in the classroom and/or post online for my students have to be captioned?


What are transcripts?

Transcripts provide a textual version of the video content. They are not synchronized verbatim with the audio or spoken words and do not include time code. Transcripts are generally separate files from the videos. They should be made available when audio files are included as part of the course materials.

Will the transcripts be good enough?

No. The appropriate accommodation for accessible video is synchronous captions. However, for content that is audio only, transcripts are sufficient.

Can I buy non-captioned videos and have them captioned?

Every effort should be made to purchase videos containing captions. If you already own a video without captions, it may be more economical to repurchase a captioned format than have captions added.

How do I purchase captioned media?

If you need to purchase new commercial media or update existing purchased media:

  • coordinate with the library selectors and procurement
  • identify if the media is available as captioned media
  • if available, purchase captioned version
  • if not, obtain permission to caption prior to purchase, complete Captioning Request Form to submit your request