Videos & CC: Just Do It!

by Kelli Bragg: This is the article I recently wrote for the WLA online newsletter; it’s posted here on my site again because it’s a topic that’s very important to me.

On July 15, 2009, at the ALA Annual Conference, Keith Michael Fels signed a document:  Resolution on Accessibility for Library Websites.

In the final declaration of this document:

“Whereas, Library websites are a key factor in accessing digital library materials; now, therefore, be it: Resolved, that the American Library Association urges all libraries to comply with Section 508 regulations, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, or other criteria that become widely accepted as standards of accessibility evolve, so that people with disabilities can effectively use library websites to access information with ease.”

Furthermore, the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights is specifically interpreted for Services to Persons with Disabilities:

“A person’s right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of disabilities. The library has the responsibility to provide materials “for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves”…When information in libraries is not presented in formats that are accessible to all users, discriminatory barriers are created.”

I’ve been noticing many library-created videos (or videos on library websites) failing those who have hearing disabilities by not providing Closed Captioning (CC). Whether the video is a story describing how the library has helped someone achieve a goal; a “fun” video; or an instructional video showing customers how to use a library product, I’ve seen too few provide text for those who may not be able to hear the audio. (Of course, this could include users on public computers without headphones or other reasons for being unable to listen.) If users can’t hear the audio and there’s no text, a discriminatory barrier is created…unacceptable given how easy it is to add captions. And please don’t pawn your Closed Captioning off on the YouTube beta CC: in the videos I’ve watched using that tool, the text either never appears, or content diverges so widely from what’s being spoken that it’s not at all relevant (hence the “beta” descriptor).

I enjoy making video tutorials, and they’re not complete until I include captions. Adding CC isn’t difficult, and I’ll even give you 3 resources:

Overstream is a free editor allowing you to easily generate & synchronize subtitles, in various languages, to any online video; it currently supports YouTube, Google Video, MySpace Video, Veoh,, and formats.

Techsmith’s Camtasia is another great tool, especially for instructional videos. Although a retail product, you can download a free 30-day trial to see if it fits your needs. Adding captions is incredibly easy and you can even import scripts!  They even offer a speech-to-text tool, which translates your narration infinitely better than YouTube’s beta CC.

Windows Movie Maker is a free, downloadable program. Upload your movie, and then use the “Title and Credits” feature to title the selected clip with your captions.

If you’re going to produce videos, please keep  the ALA Bill of Rights and Section 508 compliance in mind  and add captions. It’s simple to do, and it’s simply what you should do if you don’t want to exclude an entire segment of your population from fully using this media.

Any questions or comments? Please contact me at kellibragg at Hotmail dot com

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