UCL mediacentral


Creating Captions for Accessibility

Captioning video has become a legal requirement for most public sector bodies. Here we link to policies and explain the current accessibility requirements

UCL Accessibility Policy

The UCL Digital Accessibility team are working on an updated Accessibility policy.

For all captioning requirements, please consider the following questions:

Is your content pre-recorded or live-streamed?

For the purposes of this toolkit, we will distinguish between live-streamed and pre-recorded media content. If you need captions to appear as the speaker(s) talks during the event, these are “live-streamed" captions. Anything that needs captioning after the event is “pre-recorded”. For example, if you need to add captions to the recording of a lecture, we would say the media file is “pre-recorded”. However, if you wanted to add captions mid-lecture for the benefit of the students sat then and there in the lecture hall, these would be “livestreamed captions. 

Do you have any budget to spend on captioning?

To achieve a high level of accuracy in your transcripts and captions, you will normally need to spend either time or money on producing them. This is why it can often be worth setting aside budget for captioning: although free options can produce good results, their reliance on software only means they often create captions and transcripts which contain errors and need editing. Paying for captioning usually means that people will be checking the software-produced captions and transcripts for you, allowing you to skip the editing step.

Are you able to make your media file caption-friendly?

If you haven’t yet recorded your media file, thinking about how to make it more accessible from the outset will make the captioning process easier, with fewer errors that will need correcting. 

For example, you could consider the microphones you are using and wear a lapel microphone if available; you could also repeat questions from the audience that might not be picked up by a mic, and explain acronyms, etc. You can read further guidance about best practice for captioning here

The UCL Digital Accessibilty policy is quite clear on what you need to do to ensure your content is accessible. 

Pre-recorded content

What are the current Accessibility requirements for captioning prerecorded content? 

Certain types of pre-recorded video content, such as promotional videos, opinion pieces, instructional videos, interviews etc. must have accurate captions that are synchronised with the audio. This content may not be published to end-users without closed captioning in place.If pre-recorded video content is being placed on a public facing website, it should also have a transcript (or audio description if more appropriate).  While captions allow users to follow along in real time, transcripts allow users to search for key words and use reading techniques such as skimming and scanning to access information. However, the requirements for pre-recorded teaching content are different. (See ‘Teaching content’ below.)

Live-streamed content

What are the current Accessibility requirements for captioning Live Streamed content? 

Live-streamed video content such as webinars, online presentations and lectures are not required to have accurate captions at the time of streaming, but if they are subsequently made available online, after 14 days they are regarded as ‘pre-recorded’ content and from this point must have captions which are synchronised with the audio. 

Whilst captions are not mandatory at the time of streaming, colleagues are strongly advised to use platforms such as Teams or Zoom which have a facility for automated captions which the audience can choose to turn on.  

If a livestreamed event is going to have a large audience (for instance an open day, public lecture, conference, or town hall meeting) then organisers should consider engaging a captioning service or British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter. In all cases access requirements should be requested in advance of a large event.  

Third party content

What are the current Accessibility requirements for captioning third party content?

Some third-party content sourced externally from services such as YouTube, Vimeo etc. may not have closed captions. Staff are advised to seek out content which does have captions, and if this is not possible, a written summary of the content should be provided as a complement to the resource. 

Audio recordings

What are the current Accessibility requirements for creating a transcript for audio recordings?

Audio recordings and podcasts must be accompanied by a transcript for use by deaf/Deaf people, those with hearing loss and those who prefer to process information in written form.  

Teaching content

What are the current Accessibility requirements for captioning teaching content?

This includes lecture recordings distributed digitally to students. This includes staff-generated content but does not apply to student-created materials. The good practice and policies outlined in the sections above should be the aim, but it is recognised that the quantities of digital content involved in teaching, the pace at which it is created, and the fact that it is generally restricted in audience mean that full compliance might present ‘disproportionate’ workloads to teaching staff. As a result, staff are under no obligation to correct captions. (This doesn't include situations where captions provision has been agreed through SORAs – in this case accurate captions must be provided, and the Digital Accessibility team can advise).