Videos for external and internal use to be hosted on a platform managed by the Office of Marketing & Communications must contain ADA-compliant captions. To ensure your captions are ADA-compliant, we strongly recommend that anyone producing video use a captioning service (see recommended captioning services below).

The following are examples of best practices for ADA-compliant captioning:

  • One to three lines of text appear on screen all at once, stay there for three to seven seconds, and are then replaced by another caption.
  • Captions are timed to synchronize with the audio.
  • Do not cover up graphics and other essential visual elements of the picture.
  • Require the use of upper and lowercase letters.
  • Use a font similar to Helvetica medium.
  • Captions should have good resolution.
  • Captions should not include more than 32-characters-per-line.
  • Captions should use correct spelling, punctuation, and use of slang and accent is preserved. All words are captioned, regardless of language or dialect.
  • Sound effects should be written out when they add to understanding. Music or other descriptions should be written inside square brackets such as [music] or [laughter]
  • Speakers should be identified when more than one person is onscreen or when the speaker is not visible.
  • Words should be verbatim when time allows or as close as possible in other situations.

How does the ADA address online video captions?

The ADA was passed in 1990, when the Internet as we know it today did not exist, nor did streaming media. Thus, it does not specifically address online video captioning standards.

It is important to note that since the passage of the ADA, important legislation involving the captioning of online media has come before the court which has implications for many online-only entities. Several recent lawsuits and investigations by the Office for Civil Rights and Department of Justice have extended captioning requirements to both Section 504 and the ADA.

In the field of education in particular, Harvard and MIT were sued by the National Association of the Deaf under the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for failing to provide closed captioning (or for providing unintelligible captions) on their online course materials. Read the settlement summary (18 Feb 2020) | Read Forbes article

Recommended captioning services

  • Rev - $1.25 per video minute, 24-hour turnaround time – very reliable, used by MarCom
  • Transcription Puppy - $1.05 or less per video minute, 24-hour turnaround