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Accessibility Toolkit for Open Educational Resources (OER): Videos

Accessibility guide for creating OER

General Video and Animation Tips

Like pictures and illustrations, the use of video can present particular challenges to users with visual disabilities. Additionally, the use of videos without captioning or full transcripts can present particular challenges to users with auditory disabilities. The use of videos in a curricular context should be accompanied by at least:

  • Brief descriptions that convey the significance of the visual action, with pertinent dialogue that can give the student sufficient context to derive a meaningful experience.
  • Captioning or full transcripts that enable students with hearing disabilities to access the content, which, combined with the visual action, can enable students to fully benefit from the experience of classroom, [and online OER] videos.

- Adapted from the CUNY Assistive Technology Services (CATS)

Captioning [Updated 2021]

Video captions not only benefit those who are deaf or hard of hearing, but learning disabled students, ESL learners, those who are in a quiet public environment and don’t have access to headphones (such as a library), and students in general. Also, video captioning improves comprehension and retention of information for all types of students.

CUNY Assistive Technology Services (CATS) provides an unlimited license for a captioning software called MovieCaptioner available to CUNY faculty and staff.  You do NOT need to be a student, needing an accommodation, to ask CATS to create video captioning for your videos, they will help and produce captions for all video content being created for use. If you want to use MovieCaptioner and/or have questions contact the CATS office.

This short clip discusses the importance of "captions". It also demonstrates how to search YouTube for videos which already have closed captioning.

Attribution: [AHEAD] (2019, Feb. 22) Creating Accessible and Engaging Presentations (clip about captions)[Video File]. Retrieved from

Audio Descriptions

  • Audio descriptions are different than captioning, they are descriptive narration.
  • The Federal Government defines Audio Description as follows in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for updating the US Access Board’s Section 508 Standards, Section E103.4, published February 22, 2015:

    Audio Description. Narration added to the soundtrack to describe important visual details that cannot be understood from the main soundtrack alone.  Audio description is a means to inform individuals who are blind or who have low vision about visual content essential for comprehension.  Audio description of video provides information about actions, characters, scene changes, on-screen text, and other visual content.  Audio description supplements the regular audio track of a program.  Audio description is usually added during existing pauses in dialogue. Audio description is also called “video description” and “descriptive narration”.


Video & Animation Tips

Video and Animation

  1. Do not autoplay video and animated gifs with flashing visual content.
    • People using screen readers may have difficulty hearing the reader’s output if other audio is playing at the same time.
    • Quickly blinking or flashing images  can trigger seizures in people with certain types of seizure disorders.
    • Animations can be disorienting to many people, especially those with certain types of cognitive disorders.
  2. Include captions for video.  Captions provide text versions of the words spoken in a video.  It is essential for people who cannot hear the audio, and can be helpful for all users of your site, including people not fluent in the language used in the video/audio, or people who are working in a quiet space.
  3. If you can add Transcripts - similar to the recorded video but does not have to be exact, incudes additional descriptions, explanations, or comments that may be beneficial.

  4. Audio Descriptions - these are intended for users with visual disabilities and provide additional information about what is visible on the screen. For example, "They were walking through the park, the plants were green but they appeared cold, she coughed."

--Adapted from OpenLab Tips and SpringShare's Accessibility and LibGuides guide

Benefits of Captions on Videos

Video captions, also known as same-language subtitles, benefit everyone who watches videos (children, adolescents, college students, and adults). More than 100 empirical studies document that captioning a video improves comprehension of, attention to, and memory for the video. Captions are particularly beneficial for persons watching videos in their non-native language, for children and adults learning to read, and for persons who are D/deaf or hard of hearing.

However, despite U.S. laws, which require captioning in most workplace and educational contexts, many video audiences and video creators are naïve about the legal mandate to caption, much less the empirical benefit of captions.

- Gernsbacher, M. A. (2015).

Attribution: [NC State IT Accessibility] (2014, Feb.26)The Importance of Captioning [Video File]. Retrieved from