Videos are great. In the modern age with even simple tools like Windows Movie Maker, even Joe public in his front room can hack together a reasonable vid, while online services such as YouTube and Vimeo give the average user a way of sharing their masterpieces with the world. In my opinion there is really no excuse for organisations to not be embracing this and using video to promote services and support things like press releases and announcements.

The CaptionTube interface
The CaptionTube interface

But video comes with its own caveat in the accessibility game – it’s all well and good for people who can see and hear, probably alright for partially sighted users (don’t quote me on that – I’m still investigating accessibility issues with the players themselves) but what of people with hearing difficulties? It’s nice to see someone yakking away but if you can’t hear what they’re saying the video is of no use to you.

DVD’s and TV get round this by using closed captioning – optional text tracks that display at the bottom of the picture and show the dialogue in written form. On the internet, these tracks are supported on YouTube in the form of caption files that can be written and uploaded. These are simple text files that contain lines of text marked with timestamps and durations. YouTube uses these alongside the videos to display subtitles. Good stuff if you can get your head around things like timestamps, have the time for trial and error editing and are happy doing things in a text editor. I’m guessing that most of the casual YouTube users would balk at the concept.

Enter CaptionTube. This slick little online tool, powered by the Google App engine, allows you to grab your videos and apply captions in a timeline format as you watch the footage. The captions can then be uploaded straight onto your videos or downloaded in text format. I’ve added some captions to a recent City of Lincoln Council upload and I’m really, really pleased with the results. Particularly for a public sector organisation we need to make sure that we’re ticking all the accessibility boxes and this is an excellent move down the right path for accessible video. I’ve embedded the video below so that you can see the results.