Assembling Stories

a screenshot taken from a digital story by Aly Bailey

Access through Captioning and Audio Description

Image: Aly Bailey


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
Aly Bailey: A Journey to ReVisioning Fitness
link to download transcript

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
link to download transcript
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.

Basic format
  • 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:


To understand the context, first
we need to go to the source.


To understand the context, first we need to
go to the source.

Conventions and Practices

Identify who is speaking in square brackets:

[Narrator] They finally reached a consensus.

Identify when more than one person is on screen or when the speaker is not visible:

[Hildy] I found where you were hiding!

[Rebecca] Who says I was hiding?

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., Whispers: We need to leave now.
  • Use labels for inaudible speech, e.g., Loud music drowns out her voice.
  • Use labels for pauses, because long pauses may lead viewer to wonder if the caption isn’t working, e.g., Long pause, Suspenseful music.
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., She hums a foreboding tune, and classical music on the radio
  • For music that is not part of the action, use Music: to indicate its beginning, and then the name of the music if known, e.g Music: “Lighting Crashes” by LIVE, or combine the two, e.g., She hums “A Change is Going to Come”
  • Label mood music only when it is crucial to the plot, e.g., Calm music
  • Indicate song lyrics with ♫
  • Keep song punctuations to minimum
  • Describe sounds instead of actions, e.g., Fireworks, not Everyone is lighting fireworks
  • Sound-effect labels follow subject + active, finite verb structure, e.g., Wind howls
  • Use sound labels for alerts: Doorbell
  • Use different verb forms to help distinguish and describe sounds, e.g., If a baby cries once:
    (Baby cries)
    If a baby cries continuously:
    (Baby crying)
    Another example: (Birds chirping) or (Wind blowing through the trees) is more specific than (Forest sounds)

Audio 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.

link to download transcript
Karen Sutherland: I am a TAB (Temporarily Abled-Body)
An artwork of a squirrel by Sonny Bean


An artwork of a racoon by Sonny Bean


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