Accessibility and YouTube Videos

Accessible Videos

Since the 1940’s videos have been increasingly used as an instructional tool. Just look at YouTube! I’ve looked up how-to videos on everything from writing HTML to changing the water filter on my refrigerator. But, videos are only as valuable as the content they contain. Well-done videos add to the options available to learners, while poorly done videos can be a distraction and have an overall negative impact on the curriculum.

Quality content is important, but it can’t end there. The content must be captioned and, ideally, have audio descriptions so that it can be used by all learners.

Captions provide value to many learners. They are necessary for people with significant hearing loss, but they also benefit:

  • Non-native English speakers,
  • Content novices who are new to the vocabulary,
  • Learners watching the video in a location that is noisy, and
  • Learners watching the video in a location they can’t/shouldn’t make noise, like the library or riding on a bus.

This article cites research that shows that captions can help improve literacy!

Not only is having captions important; you must have accurate captions. According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, captions should be 99% accurate. That means including capital letters and punctuation marks, too. Auto-generated captions are not enough! 

This 2-minute video demonstrates the importance of captions.

There are some great videos on YouTube that don’t have accurate captions. So, what is an instructor to do if you want to use one of those? Well, if you don’t own the video you can’t fix the bad captions in YouTube. I’d encourage you to check out Amara.

Amara is a free tool that allows users to add an overlay of captions (or translations) to a YouTube or Vimeo video. Using Amara you can update your videos with bad captions or no captions into accessible instructional materials that you can use in your course.

One drawback of this system is you are at the mercy of the YouTube author. If you create captions for a video and then the author removes the video, Amara will show a “no-video found” error. Of course, this has always been a risk when using YouTube videos.

Learning to Use Amara

We have a few resources available to you to help you learn Amara:

  • If you want to give Amara a try on your own, read the Using Amara to Improve YouTube Captions knowledge base article.
  • If you want to learn about Amara in a workshop setting, join your fellow faculty members at Adding Captions to YouTube Videos Workshop on Friday, September 14th at 9:00 am in Thigpen 224. Register here for the Adding Captions Workshop. For adjuncts, this classroom-based workshop counts for 1 training credit.
  • If you’d like to learn about video accessibility in an online workshop setting, sign up for the Accessible YouTube Videos: Online Workshop. For adjuncts, this online workshop counts for 1 training credit. There are a few assignment deadlines in this course, so be sure to log in on the first day (Friday, September 14th) to see what will be required for completion.

If you have additional questions about video accessibility or Amara, please contact Distributed Education: eLearn@volstate.edu | (615) 230-3665.


Star BoeStar Boe, Instructional Design Specialist

Prior to joining the Distributed Education team in the fall of 2016, Star worked in Vol State’s Disability Services office as an adaptive technology specialist. She is completing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis.