Winning Videos Include Captions!

Something Big is Happening in 2013

2013 is a special year. STC turns 60. And the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that by 30 September 2013, "100% of new video programming shown on U.S. television with captions must have captions when shown online." Yes, that is what the FCC internet captioning deadlines say. This is due to the law known as 21st CVAA, or the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. Who knows how that ruling will affect technical communicators? This is a U.S. ruling for television, but these things have a way of trickling around the world and to other industries. With globalization, there is no trickle. A ruling in one country can affect the work you do today, regardless of where you are based. Perhaps you are not in a job affected by all this today, but where will you be tomorrow? If captioning is somewhere in our techcomm futures, why wait for a deadline? Why not try it out today?

How to Caption Videos?

It's actually quite easy. Ridiculously easy, I'd say. I presented a little tutorial on captioning with YouTube back in 2010 at both the We Accessibility London Unconference and the Technical Communication UK conference. You need to download the slides to get all the juicy details from the notes. Members of STC can also read this tutorial re-written as a magazine article for the January 2011 edition of the STC Intercom. Once you get all excited about captioning, I recommend reading DCMP's Captioning Key. There are also resources available at the National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH. NCAM is "dedicated to achieving media access equality for people with disabilities", so they're pretty cool.

Who cares?

"What's 3 minutes? Only a select group of people will see - or express interest in - this short video." In that "select" group of people, you will find some who have some kind of hearing issue. They can be hard-of-hearing. They can be watching your video on a device where they cannot use the speakers, or where they may not want to use the speakers at the moment. If you are excited about your video, ensure that everyone can enjoy it. There might even be members who are - gasp! - deaf. Here's a beautiful quote from Eric Stoller in a blog post on Vimeo and closed captioning.
Communities care about all of their members … not just the ones that can hear.
Let's show some STC community love. Go forth and study the details of the STC 2012 Summit video contest, but make yours the real winner with captions!

PS Super Bonus

So captioning was too easy for you? Here's a bonus. Try audio description. It's pretty amazing to hear that in action. Think about all the dramatic movies you have seen where the baddies are chasing the goodies, and you are sitting on the edge of your seat. If there is only dramatic music, but no dialog, how is a no-or-low-vision person supposed to follow the action? They listen to movies with audio description. That can really test your script writing skills for a video. How do you tell your visual story in words that are read between dialog segments in the video or movie? If you are curious, the DCMP Audio Description Key can get you started. I wonder how a 3-minute video of highlights from the Summit with no dialog would sound when given an audio description treatment?


  1. Karen Mardahl

    Thanks for your comment, Joseph. I hope we’ll see captions galore in the winner’s circle! It would be awesome if someone did audio descriptions, too. I haven’t tried doing those myself. Not yet, at least!

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