Ryan Wieland

Closed Captioning Vs. Audio Descriptions

Two people sit in front of a projected display reading captioning

When creating videos, sometimes the most challenging thing is figuring out how to make them accessible to all audiences. To make accessible videos, one may have to include closed captioning and audio descriptions, depending on the video content.

Closed captioning has been around for many years. It is included in most programming and consists of a subtitle track that contains the text of the dialogue (and who is speaking it) and indications of other non-speech sounds that are happening while a show is playing.

Audio descriptions are a newer technology that can supplement closed captioning. Audio descriptions provide narration tracks within the audio stream, describing what is going on visually on the screen.

Below is a table outlining a few key differences between these technologies:

Captions Audio descriptions
Who They Serve People who are deaf/hard of hearing People who are blind/low vision
How They Are Incorporated Into the visual stream of the video Into the audio stream
What They Convey Spoken dialogue, who is talking, and non-speech sounds What is happening on-screen
How They Are Created Captioner adds subtitle file, including sounds heard in the audio track Add an audio track on top of the original soundtrack to describe what’s seen visually