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Descriptions, Captions, and Transcripts — What’s Required for Accessible Media?

Media is an important aspect of your content strategy. Accessible media is vital to helping your media reach the broadest audience.

Accessible media is defined by three main characteristics:

  1. Visuals – Can your viewers access all the visuals in the media through sight, sound, or touch?
  2. Audio – Can your viewers access all the sound in the media through sight, sound, or touch?
  3. Media Player – Can your viewers access the video through an accessible media player using sight, sound, or touch?

These requirements may seem a bit daunting, but if you plan for accessibility from the beginning then the process is much easier to complete.

In addition to our Video and Audio Content Accessibility Resources, we recommend incorporating the following three steps into your media workflows.

  1. Plan ahead for your visuals
  2. Provide captions and descriptive transcripts
  3. Inform users of accessibility features

1. Plan ahead for your visuals

Just like images on your webpages, some visuals convey essential information and others are just for decoration. If the visual information in your media is essential to understanding the content then they must be described.

The best way to do this is to incorporate these visual descriptions directly into your dialogue. You can do this by:

  • Asking speakers to identify themselves before they start speaking rather than relying on title cards alone
  • Describing text or visuals rather than assuming the viewer will read or see the screen alone
  • Adding text pop-ups at the same time the information is included in the narration rather than adding it as extra information not in the narration
  • Reading end screen text aloud rather than relying on the viewer to read themselves

Bottom line: if it’s important enough to be in the video, it’s important enough to be in the narration or dialogue. For an example, review the video in the Description section of this page.

Say what the viewer 'sees'


In this video, the speaker is discussing different types of low vision. About a minute into the video, she holds up different visual aids and provides a detailed description.

Since the information on the screen is fully included in the dialogue of the video, no additional audio description is required. Closed captions are provided in the video.

2. Provide captions and descriptive transcripts

It may seem redundant to provide both captions and a descriptive transcript, but they are essential for a variety of audiences.

Captions are essential for people who are Deaf or hard or hearing, but they are also helpful for people who get distracted easily or choose to watch the video without sound because of their environment or preference.

Descriptive transcripts are the only way people who are Deaf-blind and use braille can access your media content. Transcripts are also helpful for users who prefer to read the content rather than watch the video. Or who want to quickly search for a specific piece of information within a video.

The great news is, captions and transcripts basically contain the same content so with very little effort you can have both ready to go at the time you publish your video.

Write what the viewer 'hears'


YouTube has built-in tools to help generate a caption track. However, automatic captions are only a starting point. You must always review and edit your captions for accuracy.

In this video, learn how to access and use the captioning tools available within YouTube. Video contains descriptions of essential information and closed captions.

3. Inform Users of Accessibility Features

While it may seem obvious that an audio or video player is embedded on your page, not all users perceive media content in the same way as you. Informing them that an audio or media player is on the page as well as any accessibility features available is a great way to help them navigate more effectively.

If you are adding a video to your WordPress pages, you can either paste your YouTube video URL directly into the text editor or use the Video + Text Panel to display your video and resources all together.

For short videos, you can include the transcript in the description field, or for longer videos, link out to a dedicated page with the full transcript. An example of this is found on the Mastering Web Accessibility Video Series page.

The best way to inform users is to use a heading prior to the media player followed by a brief description of the video. This concept is demonstrated on this very page in each section that contains a video.

Bringing it all together


If you’ve described your visuals in your video, these will be included in your caption track, and subsequently within your transcript. Now all you have to do is provide a copy of the transcript on the same page with your embedded YouTube video and voila! You have just created an accessible media experience for your audience.

In this video, learn how to find and copy your transcript from your YouTube video. Descriptions and closed captions are provided. A video transcript is available after the video.

Video Transcript - Easiest Way to Download YouTube Transcript / Subtitles as Plain Text

Hello and welcome to my channel. In this video I’m going to show you how to download a very long transcript. First open up the transcript with the three dots, toggle off your time stamps, click before the first word of the transcript and scroll to the very bottom. Now holding down shift, click at the end of the last sentence.

Now you’ve highlighted the entire transcript we’re going to copy it with command c on a mac, or ctrl c on a pc, open up a text editor such as text edit, paste command v, or ctrl v, and to replace these hard returns we’re going to go to edit, find, find and replace, for find you can do option enter or you can look for this insert pattern and find line break.

We’re going to replace with a space and click all. Now we have our entire transcript. Sometimes the first letter may or may not be copied and pasted, but if this video helped you out please like the video and subscribe thanks for watching.