Closed Captioning Faculty Guide

Why is closed captioning (CC) required?

The university provides equitable access to course materials to comply with state and federal law. A person with a disability should be able to get information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability. Therefore, if a student enrolled in a course receives closed captioning as an accommodation through the Access Center, it is required that all assigned videos and media have closed captioning. It is up to the faculty member to find out if assigned videos are closed captioned.

Keep in mind not all students with disabilities choose to receive services through the Access Center. Therefore, in line with universal design principles, it’s a good idea to ensure that closed captioning is available even if no students in the course require this accommodation. It helps to make curriculum more inclusive for all students, such as those who are deaf or hard of hearing, who have learning disabilities, who have sensory and processing disorders and for whom English is not their first language. Additionally, even for students without a disability, reading and hearing material at the same time may help with cognitive reinforcement.

How do I make sure a video has closed captioning?

The most reliable way is to play the video. Commercially produced videos will have a small CC symbol on the box. However, videos owned by the WSU Libraries may not have CC symbols on the label. You may need to actually watch the video to see if closed captioning is available. You may do so in the WSU Vancouver Library by checking out a remote and using one of the library TVs.

Always check to make sure the closed captioning provided is accurate for online videos, such as those on YouTube. Some online video sites provide only auto-generated captioning, which can be highly inaccurate, lack punctuation or capitalization, and would only confuse students. The best way to know if a video has accurate captioning is to turn off the sound, turn on the captioning and see if you can follow the video.

What is the difference between subtitles and closed captioning?

The most important difference is that subtitles provide only the spoken words, whereas closed captioning also provides the background music and sounds that are usually required to understand the action. When in doubt, try turning the subtitles on and the sound off and see if you can follow the video.

A video does not have closed captioning. What do I do now?

If you have a student in class who requires closed captioning as an accommodation through the Access Center, you must not post to Blackboard, Canvas or make available any videos until they have been closed captioned. In other words, materials are not to be made available to students until they are made accessible for all students.

Closed captioning options:

  • Faculty may submit a Closed Captioning Request Form to IT‘s Academic Services. IT staff will work with the Access Center to get the video captioned. Please allow ample time for this (at least two weeks before the video is posted/made available to the rest of the class).
  • Faculty may also choose to provide your own captions. You may use a system called Amara to caption short online videos on your own. Please watch the "Understanding Universal Design through Closed Captioning" video to learn more about the program.
  • Another option to consider is to use alternative materials that are accessible. Consider assigning different videos that already have accurate closed captioning and still meet course learning objectives. For assistance in finding such materials, consult Reference Librarian Sam Lohmann at
  • For lectures recorded in Panopto, faculty may contact Academic IT services to arrange to have captioning done for these. Academic IT will set up a folder in your class Panopto instance and schedule it so that everything put into that specific folder is automatically captioned. This typically takes a 4-day turnaround. Once this is established, you will pull the recorded file for any lecture you need captioned into this folder. Once the CC icon appears on the file, you can move it anywhere and share it as needed. For more information on creating videos in Panopto, please check out the following tutorial links:
  • If recording through Zoom, faculty are also encouraged to utilize Zoom cloud recording services to capture class recordings. Recording through Zoom cloud offers transcription services through an auto generated AI feature. However, the transcript will need to be edited for human accuracy before it is shared. Faculty will need to do this themselves, as only the instructor (host) has this access.

    In addition, the Zoom sessions are automatically available when the cloud service finishes processing them. The instructor would need to make them “unavailable” until captions or transcripts are provided. Once edits to the transcripts are made, the captions will appear on the video and the link can be shared with all students at the same time.
  • To place a CART (real-time captioning) provider in a breakout room with a student on Zoom, faculty will need to do this manually by selecting the number of rooms desired and then selecting the manual option for adding people to groups. In order for the CART provider and the student to be in the same pre-assigned group, the rest of the class will also need to be pre-assigned, as there is no capability to manually assign one group and have Zoom randomize the rest. For more information, check out these tutorials:
  • Additionally, there is a captioning engine built into the newer versions of PowerPoint. Please check out this How to add closed captions in PowerPoint tutorial.

Additional tips

  • If you are using pre-captioned media, make sure that closed captioning is on when showing the video to the class.
  • If you have a transcript of the video, you can make that available to the student by posting it on Blackboard before class.
  • If you plan to show a video in class, and ASL interpreter(s) participate in the class with the student as a part of the student’s accommodations, please provide the interpreter(s) with the video at least a week before you show it to the class so they can become familiar with the language, terms and spelling for accuracy.

We are discussing sensitive material and a student has closed captioning accommodations on recorded lectures. What should I do?

If you are concerned with recording sensitive information, know that students with “approval to record lectures” or the use of “Smartpens” as an accommodation, sign a “Course Content and Materials Usage Agreement” each semester when they request or renew their accommodations with the Access Center.

The student agrees not to copy, remix, share or post course recordings in anyway. In virtual classes, that commitment includes digital privacy, meaning that students are not allowed to make, remix nor share or post course recordings, nor in any way capture, manipulate, or circulate the likeness of a classmate.

If there are sensitive sharing by classmates, Faculty may also briefly pause the recording feature on Zoom and restart it when appropriate. Faculty may also ask students to momentarily pause their recording devices briefly, and then have them continue when appropriate.

I know a closed-captioned or subtitled DVD exists, but WSU owns a non-captioned version of the film. Can I get the DVD?

First, check SearchIt (the Library’s catalog) and Summit (the shared catalog for libraries in the Pacific Northwest). Entries for DVDs generally indicate whether subtitles are available but may not tell you if they are closed captioned. Please specify that you are requesting a DVD copy. If you request the video from a Summit library without indicating that you need the DVD rather than a VHS, you may receive a VHS copy you can’t use. Be clear in your request. For assistance locating closed-captioned media, consult Reference Librarian Sam Lohmann at

Where can I find more information or resources about Universal Design?

To learn about Universal Design, its role in higher education and web accessibility standards, consult the following resources: