Videos can be a powerful medium by which to explain ideas and demonstrate concepts. Adding closed captions to the video ensures any user can perecive meaning from it. It also makes the video a more usable experience for all users as well as achieving compliance with both the Department of Premier and Cabinet circular C2012-08 and the Disability Standards for Education (2005).

Captioned video displayed on an iPhone

What are captions?

Captions are the on-screen, text version of a video soundtrack. Captions are used to communicate not only for dialogue but also for sounds and music. Captions can appear on many forms of video formats including TV programs, DVDs, online videos, podcasts and at mainstream cinema. There are two types of captions, closed and open. Closed captions appear only when the user turns on that feature.

Most major computers and tablet devices support captions. As an example both Apple OS X and iOS systems enable you to watch movies, TV shows, videos and podcasts using closed captioning, using apps like iTunes, QuickTime and DVD Player. You can also buy or rent captioned movies from the iTunes Store or find captioned podcasts in iTunes U. Just look for the small CC icon!  Both Apple OS X and iOS allow users to personalise how they want the captions to look, simply by adjusting the different caption styles and fonts.

OSX caption preferences

Why are captions important?

Captions are essential for learners who are deaf and hard of hearing to gain meaning from the message of video. Captions are also an be very beneficial to individuals learning English as a second language, or  learners with reading and literacy problems. In fact everyone can benefit from captions.

How captions benefit all learners

There is a long list of educational benefits to using captions. Below is a compendium of the benefits collated from sites such as Media Access Australiacap that! and the U.S Described and Captioned Media Program.

  • Captions help children with word identification, meaning, acquisition, and retention.
  • Reading captions motivates viewers to read more and read more often.
  • Captions can help children establish a systematic link between the written word and the spoken word.
  • Pre-readers, by becoming familiar with captions, will have familiar signposts when they begin reading print-based material.
  • Captions compensate for noisy backgrounds or where sound isn’t allowed.
  • Captions provide a solution for poor audio quality.
  • Captions enable learners to quickly browse the video by reading the associated text as they drag the controller as the captions are always visible.
  • Captions enable learners to see the correct spellings of people, places, and things.
  • Captions provide missing information for individuals who have difficulty processing speech and auditory components of the visual media (regardless of whether this difficulty is due to a hearing loss or a cognitive delay).
  • Captions meet or exceed the W3C Web Accessibility Guidelines as well as state and federal disability legislation.
  • Captions can become part of a search engine.
  • Captions provide additional support for learners from a non english speaking background.
  • Captions make your content fully accessible to people who have hearing loss.

Learn more about captioning


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