Monday, April 6, 2020

Accessible Virtual Programming: Close-up on DIY Captioning Editors

As I write this post at the start of our fourth week in a stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have become even more aware of the inequity of online content. For this particular post, I am focusing on the need for more captioned video content. Please take a moment to go to the the accessibility settings on your device and enable the Closed Captioning option, when available. On an iPhone, select Accessibility from the main Settings menu, choose Subtitles & Captioning, and select Closed Captions + SDH (when available). 

screenshot of iPhone settings and Accessibility setting option
screenshot of iPhone accessibility options in settings with circle around Subtitles and Captioning
screenshot of iPhone Subtitles and Captioning option in settings

Now try going to social media. We'll use Facebook, as that is one of the most popular social media platforms for engagement with patrons. Go to the the video watchlist area or search your favorite organization and look at some of the videos. Before being in isolation, I admit to mostly just occasionally skimming through these videos without the sound. Unless the video had captioning, which would then pique my interest enough to stop and read... and maybe even choose to activate the sound to engage more, I kept skimming by. Upon doing a little research, it turns out I am not alone. According to research, 85 percent of Facebook video is viewed without sound. 

Now imagine what happens when we are also eliminating a portion of our community who are unable to select the option of turning up the sound on a video to engage with it. If over 5% of the world's population, or roughly 466 million people, have disabling hearing loss (World Heath Organization), we are excluding many members of our community. Additionally, we also know that captioning and subtitles can also benefit people who have cognitive disabilities and have difficulties with speech comprehension. People with sensory processing difficulties may also have difficulty with background noise or sounds, necessitating viewing without sound, in addition to better engagement with non-native speakers who may need the additional language support on the screen. 

As with other libraries during this time, our library also recognizes the need to create virtual programming such as story times, book discussions, and/or simple virtual connection activities to engage our families at home now and possibly into the coming months of uncertainty that covers Summer Reading and later fall programming. While we are looking to avoid public sharing sites that offer Closed Captioning support, such as YouTube, to honor the fair use guidelines by many publishers, we also want to ensure accuracy, therefore avoiding the use of Facebook automatic captioning that can certainly be amusing at best (  

I began my trial of caption/subtitle editors to add captioning to our virtual programming videos to ensure we are being inclusive of all abilities at a time when our disability community members are feeling even more isolated. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but a good start. This blog post takes a more comprehensive look at options to consider:

In an effort to connect with our weekly story time kiddos who are missing their time with their beloved librarians each week during this time, I asked our weekly story time staff members (if they were feeling up to it) to send me a quick video of a "hello" or a fun "singalong" to add captioning to and share with viewers on our social media and website for families not on social media. 

Video captioning resources:

  • Free version
  • Can use the auto-generate captions feature or add captions/subtitles manually
  • Easy-to-use editor allows you to edit each segment

Cons of free version:
  • Videos edited using free version go on Kapwing's public share space
  • Workspace projects are deleted after 7 days
  • Published videos can only be up to 10 minutes long

Kapwing Pro is $20/month
    image of youth librarian, Ms. Nicole with a colorful scarf on and colorful painting in the background
  • allows stored content
  • private assets option
  • priority support
  • faster processing time
  • Publish videos up to 40 minutes long
I used Kapwing to edit Ms. Nicole's sing-along video:


  • 1st video upload is free
  • Very accurate auto-generated captions
  • Can also edit caption style (font, colors) and caption position
  • Optional headline addition
  • Supports several languages for speech-text transcription
  • Does not require .SRT file
  • Easy-to-use editor allows editing of each segment
  • Only allows 1 free upload and then you have to subscribe (

I used Zubtitle to edit Ms. Andy's video message:
close up image of youth librarian, Ms. Andy smiling for the camera

Unfortunately, I did not try Amara, as videos have to be uploaded to a URL (Vimeo, YouTube, WebM, etc.) and it did not offer an auto-generated feature.

Of the three, I really liked Zubtitle the best for its versatility, ease of use, and options.

I am also going to try out Clips, an IOS video app that can take video and generate automated captions, which can be edited after, for an upcoming brief virtual adaptive story time. Coming soon!

Some other options and additional tips to consider:

Lastly, remember to be kind to yourself and to your fellow staff during this time. Things to remember: 
  • Not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera. 
  • Staff might not have the resources needed at home to do a virtual program or have to focus on taking care of young children at home, making work from home very difficult.
  • Some prefer busy work to work through the stress and anxiety of this time, and others are having a great deal of difficulty trying to focus on just the daily tasks right now. Both are okay.
  • It's okay to just keep it simple for now: sing-alongs, recommendations, a simple craft activity demo, or a hello message to connect is a great start.
Wishing wellness and safety to all of you!