Frequently Asked Questions about Captioning

What you need to know about getting audio and video media transcribed and captioned.

  • Please review our tips below on how to turn on captions in various situations.  You can also contact the Learning Technology staff by calling 459-2117 or email if you would like them to demo procedures for turning on captions in classrooms.  If you need immediate assistance with utilizing technology in the classroom, contact the hotline at 459-5858.

QUESTIONS? If appropriate, clarify disability-related needs with the student directly. Otherwise, contact the DRC at or 459-2089.

Do I always have to use captioned versions of films, film clips, YouTube videos, and other media?

All films, film clips, and slides must be captioned or subtitled in accordance with Federal Law and University policy. Please obtain films or video clips with captions whenever you plan to use them in class.  Some professionally produced films on DVD will have closed captions which can be activated through the DVD Player or TV remote. Older DVD’s and VHS tapes are often not captioned.

Another option: Videos on Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming sites are always captioned or subtitled.

The Media Collection in the UCSC Library currently has several streaming services that offer captioned and subtitled films and videos.  These services include Kanopy, Swank, Alexander Street, and more. The media on these sites are captioned.

Use this site to search the library holdings for DVDs and films available on streaming services: If you have questions about whether a particular DVD has captions, contact Media Desk:

Media Desk:  831-459-4508
Email Us:

What if the instructor owns the video?

If the video will also be shown in the classroom, regardless of whether it is instructor-owned or campus-owned, it will need to be captioned.

Is a transcript of a video sufficient?

If the material has audio and video, you need to caption it. A transcript is not sufficient. However, if you can provide a transcript, the captioning process will require less time and be less costly.

If you plan to use audio-only files in class such as podcasts, you must provide a transcript. Many podcast sites provide these for download. 

What is the difference between captions and subtitles?

Subtitles are intended for people who are able to hear, and are most often used to display a different language than the one that is spoken in the video.  They only include the words spoken.  Captions are intended to provide access to people who can’t hear. Unlike subtitles, captions include the spoken word, sound effects, and identification of speakers.  When a video has subtitles but is not available with captions, it is generally acceptable as an accommodation for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, though captions are preferred.

Why can’t the interpreter interpret the video?

In some cases, if the video is merely “talking heads,” this is possible. However, if there are multiple speakers, and a lot of activity or visuals that need to be seen in order to fully understand the video, interpreting the video in sign language is not adequate. It is impossible for the student to watch the video and the interpreters simultaneously.  It is also difficult for interpreters to act out all the speaking parts or describe and interpret the visuals in such a way that it will be meaningful for the student.

Why can’t the professional captioner transcribe the video in real time? 

The answer to this is much the same as explained above for the interpreter. In addition, UCSC captioners work remotely and often can only hear the class.  They can’t see the video for context and the sound may not be clear enough. Again, it is quite difficult for the student to watch the video and the captioners’ captions, viewed on their laptop, simultaneously.

Aren’t all my lecture recordings automatically captioned in YuJa?

It’s true that any recordings saved in YuJa are automatically captioned using Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR).  Typically these auto captions are not considered accurate enough for accessibility.  There are options in Yuja for replacing those auto captions with human-based captions.  The DRC requests human captions for YuJa videos for any class that has DRC students with the video captioning accommodation.

What should I do if I’m not sure whether my media is captioned?

Contact the DRC at or 831-459-2089 if you need guidance on checking for captions.

What should I do if the media I plan to use is not captioned?

With sufficient time, it is possible to obtain captioned materials. Make sure you check your DVDs and streaming videos well in advance (preferably before the quarter begins) to determine if they are captioned or not.  If your material is not captioned, you can contact the DRC at or 831-459-2089 for guidance on getting materials captioned. 

If you have a DRC student in the class who is authorized for video captioning as an accommodation, the DRC will reach out to you and provide assistance in captioning your materials.

Online Education may be able to assist with captioning for asynchronous/pre-recorded videos when there is not a DRC student in the class. Contact or visit Online Education's accessibility page for more information.

If you do not have a DRC student in class, you can still contact the DRC with questions related to media captioning.

How do I know if something is captioned?

If the DVD has closed captions, it should be labeled “CC.” Or it may be labeled SDH (Subtitled for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing).  If the video is subtitled (rather than captioned) in various languages, including English, that is also acceptable. 

For any streaming videos you plan to use, you should check for a “CC” button and then review the captions to make sure they’re accurate.  Be aware that most major streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime always provide captions.

*A warning about YouTube videos:  Often YouTube videos show the “CC” symbol indicating they are captioned. However, if you click on the “CC” symbol, and it says “English (Auto Generated),” these captions are produced using voice recognition software and are less than satisfactory. When used in the classroom, they may limit accessibility for the student with a hearing loss, and the errors are sometimes so inaccurate and inappropriate that they are distracting to the hearing students in class. We recommend that you review the entire YouTube video to check the accuracy of the captions before showing it in class.  If captions are not accurate, you should request that the DRC have them captioned.

An easy trick for determining if a YouTube videos is likely acceptable for access purposes:  

  • Click on the “CC” symbol at the bottom right of the video window.  In the top left, if it says “English (auto generated),” it is captioned using voice recognition, which is not acceptable for accessibility.
  • If a YouTube video is captioned by a human, it is more likely to be accurate. Click on the “CC” symbol, and in the upper left of the video it will show “English” in the upper left corner rather than “auto generated.”

When and how can the DRC assist with getting media captioned?

If you have a DRC student enrolled in your class and they require video captioning as an accommodation, the DRC Captioning Team can assist in making sure all your media is captioned or transcribed as needed.  In this case, the DRC will contact you and set up a plan with you for getting captioning done as needed, whether it’s for lecture recordings or supplemental films, videos, and clips you may use in the course.

How long does it take to get a video or clip captioned? 

When the DRC captions videos for classes, short videos of 30 minutes or less can often be turned around in about 24 hours.  For longer videos, it may take 2-3 days.  But please keep in mind that the DRC captions a very large volume of material, and we appreciate getting your captioning requests as much in advance as possible! 

What if I am just using short film clips from longer works?

If you take clips from longer works and show them in class, the clips still need to be captioned. In general, the DRC does not edit longer videos to your specifications and then caption them. You can either submit a shorter clip from a longer work, or you can submit the full-length work and the DRC will caption it in its entirety.

What if I want to use an audio clip or podcast in my class?

If the material is audio only, no video, you must provide the student with a transcript. The DRC can assist in getting the material transcribed if needed.

Turning on Captions

In the Classroom

For DVDs: Use one of the installed computers to play the DVD and then follow one of the sets of instructions below.

Macintosh, Mac DVD Player:

    1. Launch DVD Player.

    2. Go to: Features Menu > Closed Captioning and select "Turn On".

Macintosh, VLC:

    1. Launch VLC

    2. Go to: File menu > Open Disc and select the DVD.

    3. Select "Play Movie".

    4. Go To: Video Menu > Subtitles > Track and select "Closed Caption 1".

Windows, Windows Media Player (not available in Windows 8 or beyond):

    1. Launch Windows Media Player.

    2. Play the DVD.

    3. Click on arrow at bottom middle of the window.

    4. Go To: Special Features > Captions and select "Closed Captions".

Windows, VLC:

    1. Launch VLC.

    2. Play DVD.

    3. Go To: Subtitle > Sub Track > and select “Subtitles 1” or  Subtitle > Sub Track > Closed Captions > “Closed Captions 1”

On Streaming Platforms

There are many different video platforms used online, and these instructions will not cover all of them.  Here’s how to access captions on some common players.

  • YouTube:  Locate the “CC” symbol on the lower right of the YouTube video window.  Click it to turn captions on.  Again, if it says “English (auto-generated),” the captions may be inaccurate and unintelligible. If so, do not use them; instead, ask the DRC to have the video captioned properly.
  • Vimeo: Like YouTube, the Vimeo video window has a “CC” symbol in blue on the lower right.  Click on it to turn on captions.  You can also select available languages.

  • TED Talks:  Most TED Talks are subtitled.  Click on the play button (then you may want to pause while you turn on subtitles).  Click on the subtitles icon.  A new window appears where you can choose your language.  Click on the language you want and close the window.  Your video will play with subtitles