Multimedia Accessibility

HUIT's Digital Accessibility Services (DAS) offers guidance to schools and departments looking to add captioning to video resources.

Who benefits from closed captioning?

Captions benefit the deaf and hearing impaired, but they also enhance the experience of those for whom English is a second language, people with learning disabilities, and anyone in a noisy environment.  

What makes good captions

To ensure the videos you produce and post at Harvard are accessible, they should have accurate captions that include proper punctuation, speaker identification, and the identification of sounds other than speech. Services like 3Play Media and Rev are excellent resources for providing budget-friendly, high-quality captions with a quick turnaround. Auto-generated captions are not sufficient to meet the accuracy standard of Harvard’s Policy without substantial editing and proofreading for quality assurance.

What are factors to consider when choosing a captioning strategy?

  • Transcription accuracy
  • Cost
  • Time required to caption
  • Ease of integration into your video production workflow

Three approaches for captioning videos

Approach* Comment

Import video into caption editing tool and manually transcribe or compose.

Good choice if very short video.

Leverage a speech-to-text tool or import text from a Word document to create a ‘first pass’, then make any needed corrections and synchronize the text with your video.

Automated (speech-to-text) solutions provide variable degrees of accuracy. This approach works best when the video is of a single person speaking clearly, and with limited noise interference in the background. Accuracy rates drop if there are multiple people with overlapping dialog, if there is background noise in the video, or if specialized terminology is used.

Use a closed captioning service that provides both the captions or transcription and synchronization to your video.

This fee-for-service approach will provide the greatest accuracy with a minimal use of internal resources.

* Note: For videos that will be public-facing, the text output must be edited in order to conform to WCAG 2.1 guidelines. For that reason, using a service is highly recommended.

NEW: 3Play Media Login Changing to HarvardKey

Harvard's 3Play Media account is changing to Single Sign-On (SSO) on January 14, 2021. After that date, you will sign into 3Play using HarvardKey. See step-by-step instructions or watch a short video on how to log in to 3Play with HarvardKey.

Three categories of tools

  • Closed caption services
  • Caption editor
  • Speech-to-text

1) Closed captioning services

Vendor Cost Accuracy Turn-around time Suitable use cases How to

3Play Media

Harvard negotiated pricing

very high (99%+)

Standard: 48 hours

Premium: 24 hours

Preferred Vendor.

Use for videos that need high degree of accuracy, such as for a student who needs captioning for a course lecture or videos to be made public. Offers a wide range of services and formats.

Instructions: 3Play



Very high (99%+)

24 hour turnaround if video is 20 minutes or less.

Used for videos that need high accuracy, such as for a student who needs captioning for a course lecture or videos to be made public.

Instructions: Rev


On per minute basis

Very high (99%+)

24 or 48 hours

Combination. Can be integrated with video platforms.

Instructions: Cielo24

2) Caption editors

Vendor Cost Suitable use cases How to



For DIY caption creation

Instructions: CADET



For DIY caption creation. Allows online collaboration.

Instructions: Amara


3) Speech-to-text (STT)

Vendor Cost Accuracy Suitable use cases How to

IBM Watson


Medium-High (80-95%)

Automated. Can be integrated with video platforms. Has been used by DCE.

Instructions: IBM Watson

Microsoft Azure Indexer2

Currently free (while in preview); future costs still to be determined, but current version is $.02/min or less

Medium-High (80-95%)

Emphasizes searchability.

Instructions: Microsoft Azure Indexer2



Low-Medium, but provides tools to edit and correct

When you don’t need to collaborate to add the captioning.

Instructions: YouTube

Lock icon FAQs for Harvard Affiliates

Live Captions

VITAC is Harvard’s preferred vendor for professional live captioning.

Social Media Accessibility Best Practices

Social media accounts at Harvard must make every effort to make the content they share accessible to all audiences. These best practices from Harvard Public Affairs & Communications provide guidance for accessibility on social media in general, and specifically on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.