Access through Captioning and Audio Description
There are dynamic and innovative ways to improve accessibility through captioning or transcribing a story for those who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing.
Captions and text can also play an important storytelling device, adding additional layers of meaning to the story.
In the story below, the captions add a playful quality at times and draw attention to specific aspects of the storyteller’s narrative
Captioning Best Practices
If the storyteller chooses to caption their story, it is best to add captions when the story is complete and transitions and credits have been added. WeVideo offers many different ways of captioning stories, here is a short tutorial of one basic way to add captions to your film:
Tutorial: Captioning in WeVideo
Some tips and definitions for making accessible stories:
Subtitles vs. Captions
Subtitles only show the words that are said on screen.
Captions, on the other hand, translate all of the sounds in a video into onscreen text. Captions tell the audience who is speaking, what sounds are being included as part of the story, and what tone people are taking if it’s important to the meaning of the text. They also use a music note icon and the music lyrics when a song is playing.
The Re•Vision Centre uses captioning rather than subtitles.
- Sans Serif type only.
- Opaque blocks behind white text when not on black screen.
- Use standard typography positioning to middle, bottom centre.
- Avoid all caps unless necessary.
Line breaks in captions can help to make the dialogue on screen more easily understood, but if not broken correctly, it can confuse the audience. For example:
Conventions and Practices
Identify who is speaking in square brackets:
Identify when more than one person is on screen or when the speaker is not visible:
Include all words, including slang and indicate that other languages/dialects are being spoken.
- Appear at approximately the same time as the audio is happening.
- Be exactly what is being said onscreen, or as close as possible.
- Appear on screen long enough to be read.
Intonation and emotion
- Use caps to indicate when a word is stressed.
- Use a label to indicate whispered speech, e.g.,
- Use labels for inaudible speech, e.g.,
- Use labels for pauses, because long pauses may lead viewer to wonder if the caption isn’t working, e.g., , .
Music, sound effects and ambient sound
Sound effects and audible ambient sound should be included when they are relevant to the story and don’t interrupt spoken dialogue.
Be as specific as possible when describing sound.
- For music in the background or music as part of the action, use labels, e.g.,
classical music on the radio
- For music that is not part of the action, use to indicate its beginning, and then the name of the music if known, e.g , or combine the two, e.g.,
- Label mood music only when it is crucial to the plot, e.g.,
- Indicate song lyrics with ♫
- Keep song punctuations to minimum
- Describe sounds instead of actions, e.g., , not
- Sound-effect labels follow subject + active, finite verb structure, e.g.,
- Use sound labels for alerts:
- Use different verb forms to help distinguish and describe sounds, e.g., If a baby cries once:
If a baby cries continuously:
Another example: or is more specific than
Adapted from: The Closed Captioning Standards and Protocol for Canadian English Language Television Programming Services BBC Subtitle Guidelines Government of Canada Broadcasting Regulatory Policy Humber’s Modules on Making Accessible Media: Accessible Design in Digital Media Ryerson’s Accessibility Resources (Captioning and Description)
While captioning is an important technique for making digital stories more accessible for those who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing, audio description and described video can make digital stories more accessible for those who are blind or low vision.
Making Accessible Media explains how audio descriptions work to include important information that would be missed by someone who is only hearing the spoken narrative and other audible elements of a digital story.
Audio descriptions describe visual elements such as the facial expressions or body language of someone on screen, locations or settings, colours or shapes and the type of framing used.
This digital story utilizes a variety of editing special effects (both audio and visual effects) and filters as well as audio description.
In this story, a polarizing filter is applied to black and white video clips to create a disorienting, dizzying effect. The audio descriptions are read in the quiet moments between the storyteller’s narration.