Google: our video accessibility team has been hard at work

Google has just announced a number of enhancements to closed captioning across its video service, YouTube. Given YouTube’s presence and influence across the web, these changes radically enhance the accessibility of online video for users who are Deaf or hearing impaired.

Since launching support for closed captions in 2006, YouTube has continued to expand and improve the service, and has recently introduced a number of new features which make finding or creating captioned videos easier than ever.

Writing in the YouTube blog, software engineer Ken Harenstien, a member of Google and YouTube’s video accessibility team, outlined the features added in the last few months:

  • YouTube’s automatic captioning service will now create captions in English, Japanese and Korean. And if you have a transcript in those languages, speech recognition software can automatically turn it into captions.
  • Video owners can add captions to their videos in 155 languages and dialects.
  • You can search for captioned videos by adding ‘cc’ to any search, or filter search results to show only captioned titles.
  • You can change the size or colour of captions in the set-up menu.
  • YouTube now supports many of the caption formats used for television and DVDs, which means that captions created for those media can be converted for use on YouTube.

Harenstien notes that over 1.6 million videos have been captioned on YouTube, while 135 have been enabled for automatic captioning.

If a caption file is not already available for a YouTube video, there are two main ways of creating one. If you own the video, you can use YouTube’s captioning software, CaptionTube, or other software such as Universal Subtitles, to create a caption file and upload it to YouTube.

If you don’t own a video, you can request that it be automatically captioned using speech recognition software. While the results of this can be far from perfect, a video owner has the ability to go into an automatically generated caption file and fix up mistakes.

Besides the benefit of expanding your video’s audience, captioning enhances the search engine optimisation (SEO) of video content. For more information, see How to caption a YouTube video.