Captioning Non-Speech Elements

By: Verbit Editorial



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On-screen captions are perhaps the single most effective tool for improving the accessibility of video content. Audience members around the world have come to expect accurate captions as part of their viewing experience. Creators and viewers alike understand the importance of captioning the spoken text of their content, but what about the other audio components that make up a video?

When it comes to accessibility, non-speech captioning is a critical tool for millions of viewers. Captioning the non-speech elements of a video prevents the loss of critical messaging while helping to ensure your content includes viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

an equalizer hardware tool

What Are Non-Speech Elements?

Non-speech audio elements are any sounds other than spoken text in an audio or video recording. These elements include sound effects, pauses, inaudible whispers and more. Although audio elements might be easy to overlook, they often contribute in major ways to the message or plot of a video.

For instance, imagine you’re watching a scary movie about a haunted house. Speech-only captions would not include critical sound cues like [stairs creaking], [wind whistling] or [door slamming]. Because these audio components drive the plot of the film, failing to include these sounds in the captions would result in a very different viewing experience for audience members who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

The same can be said for any viewer who chooses to watch a video on mute. You may be surprised to learn that 92% of U.S. consumers watch videos on mobile devices with the sound off. Those watching online content in public may need to keep the sound muted or low. Non-speech captioning can prevent these viewers from missing important audio context

Subtitles vs. Captions

While subtitles and captions are both common features of video content, it’s important to note they are distinct from one another. Understanding the difference between the two is critical for any creator looking to prioritize the accessibility of their media.

Fundamentally, subtitles and captions differ in their approach to non-speech audio elements. Subtitles do not generally include these elements and instead focus exclusively on the spoken text of a video. The reason for this is that subtitles are designed for hearing users who are watching a video in a non-native language.

Closed captioning, on the other hand, includes non-speech components in addition to the spoken text. The goal of captioning is to offer a more equitable viewing experience for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. As a result, improving the accessibility of your content means using captions rather than subtitles to reach the most diverse audience possible.

two persons sitting on a couch watching a video in a mobile phone with non-speech captioning

How to Caption Video Content

Popular media hosting platforms like YouTube and Vimeo recognize the importance of comprehensive, accurate captions. That’s why they provide users the ability to add captions to the content they post on their sites.

In order to add captions to online videos, you’ll first need to generate a caption file by transcribing the audio to text. While it is possible to manually transcribe the audio of a piece of content, this process can be extremely tedious and time-consuming. Furthermore, transcribing video to text manually can result in a significant number of errors. Reviewing and editing those files will lead to even more work.

Some platforms like Zoom, for example, are able to automatically caption videos with Automatic Speech Recognition software. Unfortunately, ASR does not generally pick up on non-speech elements and is prone to a substantial number of transcription errors. These shortcomings significantly impact the efficacy of auto-generated captions as an accessibility tool because they do not meet the ADA’s accuracy standards.

Those looking to support their content with accurate captions that include non-speech audio elements will want to partner with a trusted captioning and transcription provider like Verbit. Verbit combines industry-leading artificial intelligence software with a vast network of professional human transcribers to generate captions with targeted 99% accuracy in as little as four hours. Additionally, Verbit’s caption files contain non-speech components as well as spoken text and sync with the video’s audio.

Verbit: Making Accessibility a Priority

As the demand for digital media continues to grow, so does the need for online accessibility. Supporting video content with accurate captions can help business leaders build a more diverse audience while demonstrating their commitment to equity and inclusion.

Verbit is proud to offer a full suite of tools to support a wide range of accessibility initiatives. Whether it’s non-speech captioning, audio description, translation or live transcription, Verbit provides cost-effective solutions that deliver both accuracy and efficiency. Reach out to learn more about how Verbit is helping businesses craft inclusive communications and content in order to meet the diverse needs of the people that matter most to them.