Closed Captions for Video

​​​​​​​​​W​hat Are Closed Captions?

Closed captions are text versions of the audio content of a video. This includes spoken words, information about who is speaking, and any sounds relevant to understanding context and meaning. For example: [laughter], [applause], [ominous music], the lyrics to a song playing in the background, etc.

Closed captions should be synchronized with the audio. They appear on the screen as the video plays so that the information presented in the video is the same information conveyed by the text in the closed captioning.

Closed captions are text-based representations of the audio content in a video or television program. They are designed to provide a transcription of spoken words, sound effects, and other relevant audio information, making the content accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing and those who may have difficulty understanding the spoken language or need to watch videos in noise-sensitive environments.

The term "closed" refers to the option to turn the captions on or off, which allows viewers to choose whether they want to see the text overlay while watching the video. This contrasts with "open captions," permanently embedded in the video and cannot be turned off.

Closed captions typically appear at the bottom of the screen, synchronized with the audio, and display dialogue, narration, sound effects, and speaker identification when applicable. They may also include additional information like background noises, music lyrics, and other audio cues essential for understanding the context of the content.

Closed captions are an essential accessibility tool, ensuring that people with hearing disabilities can fully enjoy and understand audiovisual content. Additionally, they have become helpful for people learning a new language, watching content in noisy environments, or for anyone who prefers to watch videos with the volume off.

To enable closed captions, most modern televisions, and streaming platforms offer an option to turn them on or off in the video settings.

Why Add Closed Captions?

Adding captions to your videos is essential for complying with accessibility standards since they're necessary for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. But captions can also be helpful to a variety of other audiences.​​

Video: Video Captions


View this video with audio descriptions.

Web Accessibility Perspectives - Video Captions.

[A man sat at a desk starts watching a video on his computer.​]

Video isn't just about pictures it's also about sound.

Without the audio you'd have to guess what this film is about.

[The video on his computer shows a person speaking to the camera. It is playing with no audio.]

Frustrating isn't it. Not knowing what's going on.

[The man watching the video has a hearing aid.]

That's the situation for everyone who can't hear.

[He turns on captions for the video playing.]

Captions make videos accessible, which is also handy for people who want to watch video in loud


[Another man is watching the caption video with a group of people chatting away next to him.]

or where you need to be very very quiet.

[Turns out that they are in a library. The group is shushed by the librarian. The video is shown playing with the captions on.]

Web accessibility. Essential for some useful all.

Visit for more information on video captions.

[W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Copyright 2016]

Some Additional Benefits of Captions:

  1. Reading and hearing the same content can help focus attention and reinforce the information.
  2. English language learners may better understand the content if they can read it while they listen.
  3. People can still watch videos in loud places (busy homes and public transit) or quiet ones (in a library or office without headphones).
  4. Text accompanying audio can take the guesswork out of accents, technical terms, and turns of phrases.

Check for Captions on Videos That You Did Not Create

Check for video captions by viewing them on various platforms or media players supporting closed captions. Many online video platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, and others, can add closed captions to videos. To check if a video has captions, you can look for a "CC" (closed captions) icon or a "Settings" option within the video player, which often provides a captioning or subtitles menu. If closed captions are available for the video, you can enable them from there.

Remember that not all videos have captions, as it depends on the creator or platform's decision to include them. Additionally, captions might only be available for some videos in different languages or for older content that has yet to be captioned retrospectively. Suppose you need captions for a specific video that doesn't have them. In that case, you might consider contacting the video's creator or platform to inquire about caption availability or request captions for accessibility purposes.

Example: CC button on the YouTube player.

YouTube player with arrow pointing to closed captions button.  

Important:  Watch the entire video with the captions on to make sure the captions are not only present but also consistently accurate. Do not use the video if the captions are inaccurate and you cannot get the video creator to correct them.

Tip: You can filter for captioned videos when searching on YouTube. But it would be best if you still ensure the captions are accurate.

Closed Captions Or ​​Transcripts

Closed captions and transcripts are related but distinct features used for different purposes:

Closed Caption​s:

  • Closed captions are text-based representations of the audio content in a video, synchronized with the video's timing.
  • They are primarily designed to make videos accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing a visual representation of the spoken words, sound effects, and other relevant audio information.
  • Closed captions can be turned on or off by the viewer, hence the term "closed."
  • They provide a real-time experience and enhance understanding of the video's content.


  • Transcripts, on the other hand, are textual versions of the entire audio content of a video or audio file. They represent everything spoken, including dialogue, narration, background noises, etc.
  • Closed captions and transcripts are not synchronized with the video's timing. Instead, they are presented as continuous text documents, often in paragraph format.
  • Transcripts are helpful for various purposes beyond accessibility, such as indexing and search engine optimization (SEO).
  • They are helpful for people who may not want to watch the entire video or prefer reading the content in a text format.

In summary, closed captions focus on providing an accessible viewing experience for individuals with hearing disabilities. At the same time, transcripts offer a full textual representation of the audio content for various purposes beyond accessibility. Closed captions and transcripts make video and audio content more inclusive and versatile.

When to use Clos​​ed Captions versus Transcripts

The decision to use closed captions or transcripts depends on your content's specific context and goals. Here are some scenarios where each option is more suitable:

Closed Capt​​ions:

  • Use closed captions to make video content accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Closed captions provide a synchronized, real-time representation of the audio content, allowing these individuals to follow along with the dialogue, sound effects, and other auditory cues.
  • Closed captions benefit multimedia presentations, online videos, and audiovisual content where timing and synchronization are essential to understanding the context.


  • Use transcripts to provide a full textual representation of the audio content, but synchronization with the video's timing is unnecessary.
  • Transcripts are valuable for SEO purposes, as search engines can index the text, making it easier for your content to be discovered by users searching for specific keywords or topics.
  • Transcripts are ideal for long-form content like podcasts, webinars, lectures, or interviews, as they allow users to skim or search for specific information within the text easily.
  • They are also helpful for users who prefer reading over watching a video and can benefit language learners or those with different learning preferences.

In some cases, offering both closed captions and transcripts may be beneficial, providing the audience with options for accessing your content in their preferred way. This approach ensures maximum accessibility and flexibility, catering to a broader range of users with varying needs and preferences.

The decision should be based on your content's target audience, accessibility considerations, and the specific goals you want to achieve with your content distribution.

Closed Captioning in Videos From an ​​External Source

If a publisher, vendor, or other external source provides a video that is not closed captioned, contact them directly to request that the resource be captioned. If the video publisher or creator can't provide accessible content, it is your responsibility to find or create accessible alternatives — or to switch to a source with accessible content.

If you have videos from an external source that do not already have closed captions, you can add closed captions to them using various methods and tools. Here are some steps you can follow:

  • Create a Transcript:
    The first step is to create a transcript of the video's audio content. This transcript should be a text document that includes all the video's spoken dialogue, narration, and relevant audio information.
  • Use Video Editing Software:
    If you can access video editing software, you can manually import your video and add the transcript as closed captions. Most video editing tools offer features to add captions, and you can synchronize the text with the video's timing.
  • Use Online Captioning Services:
    There are various online captioning services available that can help you add closed captions to your videos. These services often use automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology to generate captions, which you can review and edit for accuracy.
  • Use YouTube's Captioning Features:
    If you want to upload the video to YouTube, the platform provides a feature that allows you to add closed captions to your videos. You can upload the transcript directly or use YouTube's auto-captioning feature to generate captions automatically. Again, be sure to review and edit the auto-generated captions for accuracy.
  • Third-Party Captioning Tools:
    Some third-party tools specialize in captioning videos. These tools often support various video formats and provide straightforward ways to add captions to your videos.
  • Professional Captioning Services:
    You can hire professional captioning services for high-quality and accurate closed captions. These companies have experienced transcribers who can create accurate captions for your videos.

Remember that creating accurate closed captions is essential to provide accessibility to viewers who rely on them. Automated captioning services can be convenient but may only sometimes produce perfect results. Reviewing and editing the captions for accuracy is crucial, especially for significant or sensitive content.

Adding closed captions to videos from an external source not only enhances accessibility but also improves the video's searchability and makes it more engaging for a broader audience.

Additional resources