One Billion Hours of Video

iPad showing a video with closed captions
Closed captions break barriers to accessing social media content.

Over one billion hours of video are watched daily, according to YouTube. Whether scrolling your socials or watching the television at the medical clinic, it’s hard to avoid the audiovisual onslaught. But what if you are hearing impaired? What if you are in public? What if your family or housemates don’t want to overhear the latest funny cats video?

Thanks to the wonder of captions, scrolling social media on public transport or in the company of others doesn’t have to be a shared event. Captions are written support for understanding audio and come in three formats: open, closed or real time. They are vital to providing broad access to television, cinema movies, online and other audiovisual content.

Types of Captions

The text of open captions are embedded in a video and can’t be switched on or off. Closed captions, denoted by the CC symbol on the video player, can be toggled on and off. The text is pre-written and saved as a file attached to the video file. Real-time captions transcribe audio of live events verbatim. The captions are created as it happens during a live event.


Initially designed for hearing-impaired audiences, captioning offers access to content for a much broader audience than originally intended. For students with learning difficulties, captions may assist learning by reinforcing in writing what the user is watching and hearing on the video. Another way captions break barriers to accessing learning is by supporting learners who have English as a second language or dialect. Captions may be supplied in multiple languages. This means learners can access the text in their native language and hear it in English. Or they have the English text matching the spoken word.

Not only does captioning allow audio-free access to audiovisual content but some captioning systems allow for searching text. This feature provides deeper accessibility. The user, or in education, the student or teacher, has the power to search the caption text to locate a particular word or point in the video.

Link to the UDL Framework

Captioning relates to Checkpoint 1.2, Offer Alternatives for Auditory Information, in the Universal Design for Learning Framework. We can break barriers to learning by sharing everyday examples of UDL, which can occur in small and familiar ways.

Read our other article relating UDL to everyday life and pop-culture here.

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