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Subtitles and alternative media for audio/video

Audio and video published on our websites should be delivered in a way that ensures that everyone can access their content. That's why all of our content should be accessible for people with visual or auditory impairments. This is the right thing to do but is also legally required. In order to conform with accessibility regulations, all audio and video uploaded to our websites on or after 23 September 2020 should be accompanied by the following alternative formats:

Audio/video Alternative media
Audio only (such as podcasts) Transcript
Video only (such as video with no speech) Audio description
Video with audio Subtitles, and
Audio description*

*Audio description is required where there is relevant visual content that can't be described through subtitles  for example, a description of an action taking place where no words are spoken. For the majority of videos the University produces, subtitles will suffice.

Definitions of alternative media are as follows:

  • Transcript: this is a written text version of audio or video content. This should include all spoken words plus other important non-spoken sounds. The transcripts should be added as a downloadable document (such as an accessible PDF) alongside the audio file.
  • Subtitles (also called captions): similar to transcripts, subtitles are written text version of video content generally placed at the bottom of the screen. As well as dialogue, subtitles should include relevant sound effects when these are crucial for a viewer's understanding of events occurring on screen.
  • Audio description: this is an audio narration that describes visual aspects of a video alongside the original dialogue and sounds. The audio description will offer additional information during the pauses or periods of silence within the audio).

Adding subtitles to videos

Subtitles are vital for ensuring our videos are accessible to staff, students and members of the general public who are deaf or hard of hearing. They also help non-native speakers understand the video better.

There are two different types of subtitles available: closed and open.

Closed subtitles are often used by media platforms such as YouTube. These subtitles can be switched on and off and customised by the viewer  for example, to make the font larger. There is little we can do to control the way these subtitles look on screen as this will depend on the video platform and any display options chosen by the viewer.

Open subtitles are text embedded into the video which cannot be changed or removed by the viewer. We have total control over how these subtitles will look on screen. Please refer to the University’s film guidelines for advice on how to style subtitles on University videos.

A benefit of using closed subtitles is that they can be edited separately from the video and changes can be uploaded quickly. The subtitles can be downloaded as .vtt, .srt or similar filetypes, and edited and uploaded again in a very short time. Open subtitles, however, are more difficult to change, as this requires a re-edit of the video itself. 

Auto-generated (closed) subtitles

YouTube and the University Video Portal can provide automatic subtitles for videos. If using this feature, make sure to check the accuracy of subtitles and correct any errors before publishing. 

Although not legally required by the accessibility regulations, it's good practice to add subtitles to videos used in social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. 

Using external agencies

Adding subtitles to a video can be an onerous and time-consuming task. Many University departments may not have the resources to do this. If  budget is available this can be outsourced to an external agency. The following are subtitling agencies that have worked with the University before:

External agencies may charge by the minute, so long videos will obviously be more expensive to subtitle. 


If you need more information, please contact your Faculty/department digital team.