The Importance of Captioning


As accessibility consultants who live in the world of Section 508, WCAG 2.0, heading structures, alt text and text alternatives, we can often find ourselves removed from the human side of what we do. Day to day we’re buried in code, writing reports, working with developers and project managers, which can distance us from the original reason we got into the business. I love it when something comes around that reminds us of the very human purpose behind our daily work.

To illustrate, let’s start by looking at something technical. WCAG 2.0 Principle: 1 Perceivable. This principle says that, “Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can't be invisible to all of their senses)”

So, what does that principle mean? It certainly sounds technical. Maybe if we dig further it will help us understand better. Let’s look at one of the guidelines under that principle:

Okay, still pretty technical sounding but better. In plain English, it means that we need to caption stuff like videos, right? It’s not a stretch to guess that one of the reasons we do this is so that a person who is deaf can perceive the spoken content of that video. So, do we have a good understanding now? No, I mean do we really understand?

We no doubt have a firm academic grasp on the how and why of this guideline, as does the accessibility consultant assessing a website for compliance to WCAG 2.0. But we’re all human beings and the academics are just one piece of our ability to understand.  That’s why I was so please when someone shared with me a video called The Importance of Captioning. Not only is it very clever, it very effectively conveys a human understanding of why we have guideline 1.2.2. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.

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