Closed Captioning Vs. Audio Descriptions

Written by: Harrison Tu
Use of this material granted by Michele Landis, Co-Founder of Accessible360

Closed Captioning Vs. Audio Descriptions

When creating videos, sometimes the hardest thing is trying to figure out how to make them accessible to all audiences. To make accessible videos, one may have to include closed captioning and audio descriptions, depending on the video content.

Closed captioning has been around for many years. It is included on most programming, and consists of a subtitle track that contains the text of the dialogue (and who is speaking it), as well as indications of other non-speech sounds that are happening while a show is playing.

Audio descriptions are a newer technology that can supplement closed captioning. Audio descriptions provide narration tracks within the audio stream, describing what is going on visually on the screen.

Below is a table outlining a few key differences between these technologies:

Captions Audio descriptions
Who They Serve People who are deaf/hard of hearing People who are blind/low vision
How They Are Incorporated Into the visual stream of the video Into the audio stream
What They Convey Spoken dialogue, who is talking, and non-speech sounds What is happening on-screen
How They Are Created Captioner adds subtitle file, including sounds heard in audio track Add audio track on top of original soundtrack to describe what’s seen visually

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