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Centralized vs. Decentralized Budgets  

The pros and cons of accessibility fund structures

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Delivering on accessibility needs can be a challenge. When institutions and organizations are faced with the need to provide accessible video, they may struggle with deciding how to manage their existing – and sometimes limited – resources and expenses. Prioritizing video is an essential part of providing students with a high-quality education, but investing in captioning and transcribing these videos is also essential to give students with disabilities, among others, an equal playing field.

With 19.4% of post-secondary students reporting that they have a disability, institutions are experiencing an increased demand for both captioning and web accessibility. Plus, the current legal climate places greater pressure on institutions to ensure captioning compliance along with accessibility guidelines and legislation, with many schools considering formalizing their approaches to captioning. To address these challenges, institutions are developing centralized captioning models to lower captioning costs and overhead. Other schools managing a smaller campus size can still benefit from using a decentralized process.

When it comes to choosing the right captioning model, accessibility stakeholders and professionals should be aware of these important factors.

Centralized Captioning



Funding is provided by the college or university and typically distributed to colleges and departments across campus

Prevents need to provide accommodations for last minute requests
Setup allows for more proactive approach to captioning

College-wide funding may not be available for captioning

Process is typically centralized through an office that’s already familiar with how the captioning process works (ie: disability services, IT department)

Limited resources or staff may hinder the ability to implement a campus-wide captioning process

Prevents need to provide accommodations for last minute requests
Setup allows for more proactive approach to captioning.

Setup allows for more proactive approach to captioning

Decentralized Captioning



Discretionary can be used to caption media outside of accommodations

Cost is borne by the individual department or faculty member

Departments have more flexibility to choose what captioning process or provider they want to use

Departments may have limited budgets, meaning not all content is getting captioned

Limited staff on hand available to manage captioning in-house

Survey Report on Captioning Models  

Results from a 2021 survey of 130+ higher-education professionals indicated:

The majority of schools (78%) use a centralized captioning approach, but only 55% of respondents in this category find it effective. In comparison, 74% of respondents in the decentralized category report that they consider a decentralized approach more effective than a centralized one.


5 Tips for Improving the Captioning Process  

Regardless of the budgeting structure, consider these pointers:


Understand Your Legal Responsibilities

Accessibility professionals should be aware of the legal implications that captioning and transcription accommodations can have. The National Deaf Center (NDC) provides a useful equitable access guide on institutional responsibilities as well as suggested policies for compliance.


Enlist a Proactive Approach

A proactive approach to captioning will remove the need to accommodate last-minute or emergency requests. When colleges set out to caption content ahead of time, it saves valuable time and energy that can otherwise be used to provide crucial accommodations and support.


Outline a Clear Captioning Policy or Guide

Creating a policy or handbook is beneficial to ensure that staff and faculty are fully aware of how to manage their video and captioning processes. Individuals may not always be aware of the importance of accessibility, so it’s helpful to have a web page with an accessibility statement or guidelines to assist individuals that are new to captioning efforts.


Audit Existing Video and Audio Content

Accessibility stakeholders should consider reviewing existing content that’s being used in courses and on public-facing web pages. One benefit of doing so is that it gives stakeholders the opportunity to caption content that may not already have it. For instructors that are using more popular content, auditing provides professionals with the opportunity to look for already captioned versions of video content online, avoiding the need to spend additional money on captioning.


Work with a Professional Vendor

For institutions with high demands for captioning, using an outside provider like Verbit can be a cost-effective way to offer video accessibility services like live captioning and audio description. Verbit also provides you with guidance and dedicated support when challenges and unique needs arise.

The Value of an Organized Captioning Process  

Captioning provides value beyond accessibility alone. When a video is captioned, it becomes “searchable” online and can improve learning outcomes, comprehension levels and engagement for everyone accessing it. Whether you’re enlisting a centralized or decentralized approach to captioning, it’s clear that implementing an organized captioning process will be the key to providing an equitable and inclusive experience for all learners.

Verbit specializes in providing high-quality captioning and transcription services to higher education institutions and organizations. It provides cost-effective and accurate tools that ensure accessibility for students, along with a full suite of video accessibility tools that are designed to support educators. For more guidance on how to implement your desired captioning model, reach out.