Virginia Tech® home

Captioned Media

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in 1990, protects disabled persons from discrimination through barriers to communication. The use of captioned media breaks down these barriers and equalizes communication access. But, the use of captioned media provides many more benefits to diverse populations.

Who benefits?

  • Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing must have captioned media in order to access the auditory and visual media from one location.
  • Persons with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or other cognitive impairments also benefit from the open captions supplementing the audio.
  • Persons on this diverse campus where English is their second language.
  • Persons globally who see Virginia Tech media productions.
  • Persons without disabilities have stated that captioning helps in taking notes and improves understanding and recall.
  • Anyone in the audience when variations of sound quality or surrounding noise distractions.

What about the distraction complaint?

A common comment on showing captioned media when only a few persons in the classroom/auditorium/room have a disability is that the open captions are a distraction to the rest of the audience, or the open captions interfere with the visual aspect of the media. Most persons adapt very easily to the captions and find that they use the captions to supplement the audio when they miss some dialogue due to poor sound quality/acoustics or due to environmental noises. Additionally, research shows that, contrary to the supposition that captions are distracting and interfere with learning, there is no significant difference in test scores between hearing groups who viewed captioned and those who viewed non-captioned media.

What can the university do?

All videos/media that are purchased or developed by the university or by a department should be open or closed-captioned. The open-captioned format is recommended as the captions on open-captioned media are always displayed and no special equipment or setting is needed. Closed-captioned media require special equipment or menu setting to display the captions.

Please indicate the need for a captioned version on all video/media orders.

If you need assistance obtaining captioning for your online or other media, please go to the university's Captioning Services 4help page.

Captioned Media Guidelines

The following guidelines are intended to help ascertain whether your existing media is already captioned and what steps can be taken to caption existing media that is not captioned.

Determining if existing media is captioned: 

  • DVDs typically have a caption or subtitle option. Please select that option when showing a DVD in class.
  • A great number of online videos are not captioned. The automatic captioning on sites such as youtube are inadequate to provide accessibility for Deaf or hard-of-hearing students. If you intend to use an online video in class, check to see whether it is already captioned. If it is not, make sure to have it transcribed and captioned ahead of time for Deaf or hard-of-hearing students.(See below for assistance.)
  • Most VHS videos (from the mid-1990s onward) are likely to be closed-captioned:
    • In some older classrooms on campus, a caption-decoder (in addition to the VCR) might be needed to display the captions. Please contact Classroom AV Services at 540-231-5684 to check out equipment (must pick up and return to 204 Saunders).
    • In newer classrooms that are electronically equipped, the remote control for the TV or for the VCR must be used to "turn on" the captions. Please try this out on this equipment prior to showing films in class to ensure the proper working of the equipment, and that you understand how to display the captions.
    • In auditoriums with audio/visual technicians, the technician can turn on the captions from the equipment in their booth.
  • Video clips recorded from TV onto VHS will be closed-captioned if the TV show was closed-captioned. To display these captions, refer to the second bullet above.
  • Older VHS videos may not be closed-captioned. Please look on the box for the CC symbol to determine if it is captioned or not.

If you need assistance obtaining captioning for your online or other media, please go to the university's Captioning Services 4help page.