Closed captions have had their fair share of air time in recent weeks. The US lawsuit against MIT and Harvard has seen a flurry of activity on social media sites and mainstream news outlets. YouTube’s automatic captions have also come under scrutiny, with YouTube recently acknowledging that they are “by no means good enough yet”.

But what does this all mean? Will we see a change in the way governments, companies and educational institutions approach online content? Will they regress and pull back on the amount of digital content they upload to their websites and YouTube channels or will they look at making their content accessible, and if so, to what degree? Will there be an impact on Transcripts, Captions and Audio Description?

In assessing their options, governments, companies and educational institutions should consider the benefits to them, not just us, the public. Yes, accessible content means that they would avoid a potential lawsuit. Yes, it makes their content accessible to more people. But what this really means is that more people can now access and understand their message. And isn’t that why they took the time to make a video or record a podcast? They wanted to engage people, they wanted people to understand their message.

But what about in an educational setting? What are the benefits to students who do not have a disability? Captions have been proven to assist students for whom English is an additional language. They have a second pass at an accessible video, as they can hear and see the words. They can associate the audio with the written word, which further assists their language acquisition and comprehension.

Captions enable visual media to be searchable, allowing students to easily search recorded lectures for key terms, turning the recording into an interactive learning tool. It allows them to control and further develop their learning, at their own pace. Captions grant all students the ability to tailor their learning to their individual needs.

But what other benefits are there to an organisation with a message to share? Captions and transcripts also improve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). When people are searching for a product or service on Google, accessible content ranks higher than content that isn’t accessible.

Do captions, transcripts and audio description make content accessible for a person with a disability? Yes. Does it makes it easier for someone learning English to access your message? Yes. Does it assist students with their education? Yes.

Does it therefore make sense to ensure your online content is accessible? Definitely.

Written by Paul Leary, Business Development Manager

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