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:

CaptionsAudio descriptions
Who They ServePeople who are deaf/hard of hearingPeople who are blind/low vision
How They Are IncorporatedInto the visual stream of the videoInto the audio stream
What They ConveySpoken dialogue, who is talking, and non-speech soundsWhat is happening on-screen
How They Are CreatedCaptioner adds subtitle file, including sounds heard in audio trackAdd audio track on top of original soundtrack to describe what’s seen visually

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