Skip to Main Content

Open Educational Resources and Zero-Cost Learning: How to create accessible video lectures

Accessibility Information on Videos

General Information:

Videos and video lectures are great to use in teaching. Providing captions, audio descriptions and transcripts make your videos accessible to a wide audience,

Why making videos accessible is important?

  • Captions not only benefit those who are deaf or hard of hearing, but people who are learning disabled, ESL learners, those who are in a quiet public environment and don’t have access to headphones (such as a library).
  • Captioning improves comprehension and retention of information.

How to create accessible videos:

  • Create captions, a transcript, and audio descriptions for your videos.
  • YouTube provides automatic captioning, however it is not without errors.  If you use the automatic captioning, edit out errors.
  • Make sure it is delivered in an accessible media player.

Video Captions

NOTE: All links will open up in a new tab or windowexternal link.

Captions are text versions of the audio content, synchronized with the video.

Help Captioning Video Lectures

  • The transition to distance learning will result in an overwhelming amount of videos faculty may use for their online lectures. Many professors have expressed concerns on how they would caption their videos for their deaf/hard-of-hearing students.
  • CUNY Assistive Technology Services (CATS) recommends the use of to automatically transcribe video content. You can create a free account that comes with 600 free minutes per month. You import your videos and wait between 20 minutes to an hour for a transcribed product (depending on the length of the video). Once a video is transcribed, you can click on the transcript and make any necessary edits.
  • If you will be using live videos instead of recorded videos, Blackboard Collaborate has a live captioning feature. However, this does not automatically transcribe your live lectures. You will need to have an attendee type the captions as you are live (CATS does not have live captioning availability). Click here for more information on live captioning with Blackboard Collaborate.
  • Another option, to have your live lectures automatically captioned, is Office 365 which has a built-in live captioning feature in PowerPoint. CUNY members have access to Office 365; CUNY faculty and staff Office 365 or CUNY student Office 365.
    • You login with your CUNYFirst username ( and CUNYFirst password.
    • After clicking on PowerPoint, you can start a new presentation or upload a presentation you already have.
    • After it opens, click on slide show, and click on “always use subtitles”.
    • You can choose to have the captions appear below or above the slide, and have your captions translated to another language by choosing a different subtitle language.
  • A downside to using the built-in live captioning with Office 365 is that the captions only appear in the PowerPoint you are presenting, and no other files or browser windows during your lecture. If you are just going to be lecturing in your live video, then this will be a great tool.

Audio Descriptions for Videos

Audio Descriptions are commentary and narration which guides the listener through the movie, tv show, theater or other art form with concise, objective descriptions of new scenes, settings, costumes, body language, and "sight gags," all slipped in between portions of dialogue or songs.

  • Audio Descriptions help with accessibility for people who are blind, have low vision, or who are otherwise visually impaired. 
  • Audio description supplements the regular audio track of a program. 
  • Audio description is usually added during existing pauses in dialog.
  • Audio description is also called “video description” and “descriptive narration”


  • Transcripts allow anyone that cannot access content from web audio or video to read a text transcript instead.
  • Transcripts provide a textual version of the content that can be accessed by anyone. They also allow the content to be searchable, both by computers (such as search engines) and by end users.
  • Screen reader users may also prefer the transcript over listening to the audio of the web multimedia.

Examples of Captions and Audio Descriptions

Still not totally sure what audio descriptions are and how they are different from captions? Play these 2 videos of the same trailer for movie Frozen to see the difference.

Video with Subtitles

Attribution: [IMSTVUK] (2013, Nov 12) Frozen - Trailer with Subtitles [Video file]

Video with Audio Descriptions

Attribution: [IMSTVUK] (2013, Nov. 12) Frozen – Trailer with Audio Description [Video File].