Frequently asked questions

Why do we caption?

For a video to be accessible to a viewer, the person watching it must be able to understand what is happening in both the visual and audio portions of the video. A well-produced film ensures that a person can completely understand the message, no matter his or her disability. If your audience can’t understand either the visual or audio pieces, you can’t deliver your message.

Communication is effective communication when whatever is written or spoken is as clear and understandable to people with disabilities as it is for people without disabilities. VCU provides effective communication to all individuals, including job applicants, program participants, and people seeking information about programs, services or activities.

Who benefits?

Captioned media breaks down barriers and equalizes communication access. In addition, the use of captioned media provides benefits to diverse populations.

  • Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing use captioned media in order to access the auditory and visual media from one location.
  • Many others, including persons with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or other cognitive impairments also benefit from the open captions supplementing the audio.
  • Captions also benefit non-native speakers, users with audio disabled, or viewers watching a video with poor quality audio.
  • Captioning helps most persons taking notes and improves understanding and recall, particularly when variations of sound quality or surrounding noise distractions are present.
  • Work units benefit by facilitating the success of all personnel in performing responsibilities presented in an audiovisual format.

NOTE: Transcripts are also beneficial to users who may not be able to access audio on their computers.

Does Virginia have specific guidelines related to captioning?

The Commonwealth of Virginia requires that all state agency websites adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), This is organized under four principles of website accessibility: that they must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.  

WCAG 2.0 outline the requirements for accessible audio and video as follows: 

  1. If you use audio files on your Web page, a text transcript or other text-based material should be provided.

    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.1 — "An alternative for time-based media is provided that presents equivalent information for prerecorded audio-only content."

  2. If video files are used, captions or a synchronized text transcript should be provided.

    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.2 — "Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media-alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such."

  3. Video files should be embedded or displayed in a player that can be accessed by a screen reader via keyboard commands.

    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.1 — "Make all functionality available from a keyboard."

  4. Videos that include visual information critical to comprehension should include a description of events or images for visually impaired audiences. For example, a screencast of a software product should name the buttons and commands being used, not just say "click here."

    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.3 — An alternative for time-based media or audio description of the prerecorded video content is provided for synchronized media, except when the media is a media-alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.

  5. A lengthy piece of audio or video should not be played by default when entering a page. Instead, the user should be able to click the play button to start the file. This provision prevents audio from interfering with screen reader audio.


What does this mean for my department?

Some departments may have already been practicing these guidelines; however, other departments may need to investigate resources for implementing these guidelines. A list of resources and vendors are included in these guidelines. Implementing these guidelines may also require some change in process or the time in post-production of media. The resources listed include associated costs and time estimates to help you plan.

How do I know when captioning is required?

Captioning is required for the following audio and audiovisual media:

  • Media used for instructional purposes for a student enrolled at the university who is deaf or hard of hearing and registered with the appropriate student support services office.
  • Media used to orient, publicize, promote or explain the university and its services that is intended to reach the general public (e.g., Admissions, Orientation, University Advancement, Job Postings, etc.).
  • Media intended to reach the general public that is linked to the university website or VCU-owned social media sites.

NOTE: According to DOJ resolutions, a university must provide equivalent, immediate access to information. If a student enrolls in a course during the add/drop period, the technology would need to be accessible at the same time and in the same way as to other students.

What is the difference between subtitles and captioning?

Captioning is text that appears on a video, which contains dialogue and audio cues such as music or sound effects that occur off-screen. The purpose of captioning is to make video content accessible to those who cannot access the audio content of the video, such as Deaf or Hard of Hearing viewers, and for other situations in which the audio cannot be heard due to environmental noise or a need for silence.

Subtitling is text that appears on a video and typically contains only a transcription (or translation) of the dialogue.

Why do I need to think about all the places the video may end up?

It will help you anticipate your audiences’ need for captioning and the best process for developing captions.

We have several archived videos. Do we need to transcribe them all?

If the archived item is not being used for teaching or communication you may caption it on an as-needed basis. However, if a video is used regularly (e.g., to teach a class), it should be captioned.

My video will be played at an event. What is required?

If live events are simulcast over the Web and open to the public to attend, live captioning is needed in order to provide access to the audio content for audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing. Similarly, live description may be needed if key visual content will otherwise not be verbalized, such as in a dramatic production. 

We are having a video conferencing meeting. If we ask participants ahead of time if they need any accommodations (i.e., captioning), and no one requests it, are we still required to have live captioning?

If the known participants in a closed meeting are given an opportunity to request reasonable accommodations and do not request captioning, then captioning is not required for equal access and effective communication.

Where can I go to get closed captioning done?

There are several ways to add closed captioning or subtitles to your video or audio files. If you are working with a third-party or publicly available media platform, consult specific instructions for adding manual captions, subtitles, or using an .srt file. If you have questions about social media resources, contact

How do I create an .srt file?

For more information on how to create an .srt file, visit:

These files can also be created on Youtube to be uploaded onto other platforms. 

What should I consider in terms of quality of captions?

Regardless of which service you choose, it is always a good idea to proofread the captions you receive before making them publicly available. Accurately transcribed captions help the multimedia content on your site to make a good impression. It is especially important to look for any words that are unusual, such as names, technical terms in a particular field, and the like.

Who do I talk to if I have questions?

Third-party vendors: When working with a vendor, contact them directly.

Kaltura: For additional help, requests, or questions regarding Kaltura, email

Social media: If you have questions concerning captioning on social media sites, contact

What about captioning a live event?
The Americans with Disabilities Act does not provide specific guidance about live captioning. VCU uses the Web Content Accessibility guidelines to determine web accessibility Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0)
The WCAG 2.0 are a set of guidelines for creating accessible website content published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The guidelines cover a range of areas that, when complied with, make the content more user friendly. Aside from the intrinsic value of inclusion for all, live captioning must be provided for all live audio content in synchronized media on the Web as per the specific guidance about live captioning which is located at WCAG AA 1.2.4