August 24, 2015

Make Your Videos More Accessible With Captions

Meryl Ayres


A few months ago, we launched multilingual captions to improve the accessibility of Wistia videos for all. The resounding positive feedback on this feature reinforced our hunch that many video marketers are already privy to the many benefits of captions.

In an effort to learn more about the importance of accessibility in video, we reached out to Julian Moiwai, the social media manager at ZVRS, a technology company that offers video communication solutions for deaf and hard of hearing people. The following video demonstrates ZVRS' video mail feature.

Julian urged us to make ordering captions a permanent item on our to-do list for video production, and he taught us about the experience of consuming video from a deaf person's perspective.


What are concrete ways to make videos more accessible to a deaf audience?


  • Caption the video. Captions aren’t only helpful for a deaf person, but they also benefit non-native English speakers and senior citizens with limited hearing. With captions available, your video hits a wider audience. Imagine how many more prospective customers you could get by making captions available in your video. There are more than 36 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. Go figure. At ZVRS, we strongly believe in accessibility for everyone, so we make sure that both our external and internal videos are captioned. That way, we hit all demographics possible in our target audience.
  • Make sure the captions are accessible and readily available. Make captions available to those who want them. Are they easy to read? Make sure they are an appropriate size and contrast to ensure readability. Otherwise, your support team might receive some unhappy calls and tweets. Be sure to do a spell check.
  • If all else fails, make an alternative text transcript available. Captioning a video can be time-consuming. If you’re in a hurry to release your video, please at least make a text transcript available along with your video and caption it later.

Editor's note: If you want to see a good example of a text transcript, Moz's Whiteboard Friday video series always includes a full transcript with every post!


What are the most frustrating aspects of video to a deaf or hard of hearing audience?


  • No captions at all. This is the most common dilemma we face on a daily basis in the world we call "hearing." No availability of captions is the most frustrating aspect of online video. Often, we quit watching on the spot and move on with our lives, or take attempts at reading lips, or even hope to catch any visuals in the video that would help us understand the message.
  • Non-synchronized captions. The feeling of relief upon realizing that captions are available is shot down as soon we notice that captions don’t appear at approximately the same time as the audio is delivered.
  • Inconsistency of captions. Once you make captions available in one video, you have set your audience’s expectation for all of your videos to be captioned. Stay consistent and make captioning video one of the to-do's for your launch plan.


Have you seen any clever videos that cater to a deaf audience? What made them so successful?


Sean Forbes is a deaf rapper out of Detroit. Deaf people find his videos entertaining because his lyrics are visual and in sync with his music.

Now This News uses captioning in negative space very well. Very brief and visual. Almost all of their videos are made out of B-roll footage.

You can add captions to any video if you're using Wistia. Visit the Help Center to learn more!

And thanks to Julian, who joined us at WistiaFest this year, we now have our very own sign for Wistia in ASL (hint: it's the last one in the video).

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