Accessibility Tip of the Week: Enhancing the accuracy of automatically generated captions


This week Robert Hardy, our district website accessibility specialist, shares about how to use YouTube’s automatic captioning to create accessible video content. Please call Robert with any accessibility questions at Ext. 6105. He is more than happy to talk by phone or schedule a time to meet via Zoom.

Creating videos using ScreenCastify or other tools is a great way to reach out and connect with your students and our community. Captioning this content is a necessary step in ensuring everyone can access and enjoy it. Tools such as YouTube automatically generate captions,  but there are some steps that can be taken to enhance the accuracy of the captions and ensure the meaning of your message is fully conveyed.

Increasing the accuracy of automatically generated captions:

  • Have clear audio with a single individual speaking. Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Reduce background noise and refrain from background music or other distractions.
  • Introduce yourself at the outset of the video. This negates the requirement to manually enter your name in the captions at the start of the video (for example: [Robert Hardy]).
  • Narrate your on-screen actions, particularly when creating step-by-step guides.

Editing captions in YouTube(click here to view a screencast of this process):

  1. Upload your video to your YouTube channel. After several minutes, YouTube’s automatically generated captions will become available.
  2. Select your profile icon at the top right of the YouTube screen, and select YouTube Studio.
  3. On the left-hand menu, select Subtitles.
  4. On the row that reads “English (Automatic)”, beneath the Subtitles column, select Published Automatic. This will open YouTube’s subtitle editing screen.
  5. At the top right, select Edit.
  6. Edit the captions in the left menu, editing for grammar and punctuation. Some hotkeys are available to enable you to simultaneously watch the video:
    • Shift + Space – Plays the video
    • Shift + Left Arrow – Rewinds the video by one second
    • Shift + Right Arrow – Fast forwards the video by one second
    • Shift + Enter – Adds a new line in the caption.
    • Shift + Down/Up Arrow – Goes to the next/previous caption
    • Enter – Adds a new blank caption
  7. If needed, the timings of captions can be adjusted by dragging the edges of the caption on the caption timeline beneath the video.
  8. When done, select Publish edits.

Tips for formatting captions:

  • Include sound in brackets:
    • [Laughs]
    • [Rolling thunder]
  • If including music, include the song title and musician:
    • [“Fifth Symphony” by Beethoven]
  • If music lyrics are central to the message of the video, include those using the ♪ icon (you can copy and paste it from here):
    • ♪ Never gonna run around and desert you
      Never gonna make you cry ♪
  • If speech is inaudible, use [inaudible]
  • Try to keep captions synced with the spoken speech, and try to refrain from overly long captions

Thank you for your work in creating captions for your video content. If you have any questions about this method or other accessibility concerns, please reach out to Robert Hardy, the district’s website accessibility specialist.