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Best Practices


What is a transcript?

A transcript is a full text recount of dialogue and non-dialogue audio in multimedia. Sometimes it also includes text descriptions of visuals. The purpose of a transcript is to give individuals an option to read the transcript instead of watching/listening/interacting with the multimedia. Unlike captions, the text does not have to be synchronous with the video, but some players do allow for synchronization. It is expected that if more information is needed to clarify the content then that information is added to the transcript. Transcripts are often in a separate page or in a separate document.

Why is it important to include a transcript?

Providing a transcript of media helps individuals with disabilities and many individuals without disabilities.

Best Practices for Creating Transcripts

  • All dialogue from the media. Usually you want to transcribe the dialogue as it is presented, even if it is not grammatically correct. There are some cases where you should even add the disfluencies ( ‘ahs’ and ‘ums’ in the speech), but not all types of media require this level of accuracy. It is recommended you determine the degree of accuracy before starting the transcription.
  • If a person's tone of voice or how they are speaking is relevant then include that information in brackets.
  • Important non-dialogue audio (baby crying, car horn honking, fire alarm, music, etc.)
  • The names of all the speakers in the transcript. Also include their official titles if that information is relevant and available. Just add the full name and title before their first line of dialogue and then use shorthand for the rest of the transcript.  
  • Descriptions of content-bearing visuals in the media. An example would be descriptions of graphs, charts and maps. For audio files or videos with unimportant decorative images then descriptions are not needed.
  • Clarifications and elaborations on visual instructions in the audio. For example, the narrator in a screencast video might say “Go over here for contact information.” In the transcript you could clarify where "here" is in the video. You might write in brackets or parenthesis, “Scroll down to the footer of the website to get the contact information.”   
  • Features of an accessible text document or webpage. This includes a proper heading structure using the built-in styles, high contrast color combinations, descriptive hyperlink text, and a table of contents for longer documents.

Tools for Creating Transcripts - Voice Recognition Technology

Closed Captioning

Tools for Creating Captions

  • YouTube is a video-sharing website. 
  • Camtasia is a software used to record onscreen activity, audio and web cam video and narrate existing PowerPoint presentations.
  • Amara is a free and open source captioning, subtitling, and translating tool that helps make your and other's videos more accessible.
  • Express Scribe is a free caption editor software.

Best Practices for Creating Captions

  • Keep subtitle length to about 42 characters (maximum of 7 - 12 words per line)
  • Avoid more than 2 lines per caption.
  • Captions should not be less than 1 second.
  • Split captions lasting more than 7 seconds.
  • Use standard rules for spelling and punctuation as much as possible.
  • Determine natural breaks in the dialogue (verbs and conjunctions - use your own judgment).
  • Exclude “um’s” and “ah’s” from captions.
  • Add music, meaningful sounds, or other descriptions inside square brackets. Example: [car honking]
  • Describe relevant music which does not have relevant lyrics. Example: ♪[rock music]♪
  • Write relevant lyrics with musical notes. Example: ♪ You’re the one that I want, ♪
  • Use parenthesis to indicate when someone is speaking off-screen. Example: [Jeanine] Hey you!
  • If it is not obvious who is speaking, identify the speaker by putting their name or descriptor in parentheses (e.g., [John] Good morning, everyone.).
  • If you see people talking, but there’s no sound, or if there are long periods with no sound, caption it as [no audio].
For more information, reference The Captioning Key.

Audio Descriptions 

What are audio descriptions?

Audio descriptions provide additional information about what is visible on a screen. This allows media content to be accessible to persons with visual impairments.

Audio description is either live or recorded information, provided by a trained describer that provides descriptions of visual components of an event to become accessible to those who are blind or of low vision. This information is not provided with the normal recording or live performance, yet is synchronized as not to interrupt the primary event.

Examples of Audio Described Video:

When are audio descriptions necessary?

If a video is understandable as audio alone or with supplemental source files, no additional video description is necessary.

Best Practices for Creating Audio Descriptions

  • Do not include personal judgments, opinions, analyses, motivations, etc. Describe only what is visible. 
  • Be as descriptive as possible in the time allotted. 
  • Use present tense. 
  • Be consistent with naming and terminology. 
  • Read text on the screen that is not recited in the dialogue. 
  • Do not record over dialogue.
For more information, reference the Guidelines for Audio Description.

Tools for Creating Audio Descriptions

  • YouDescribe is a free accessibility tool for adding audio description to YouTube videos.

Video Player Accessibility 

Common features of accessible video players:

  • Keyboard/navigation support for screen readers and magnifiers
  • Volume up/volume down
  • Voice activated capability 
  • Adjustable font size or caption colors, contrast for captions
  • Ability to turn on/off captions, audio descriptions

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