Inclusive marketing: How to subtitle videos on a budget

If you want to learn more about inclusive marketing best practices, download our guidebook!

"CC" in word cloud, the symbol for Closed CaptioningWhen it comes to making your marketing inclusive for people with disabilities, one of the biggest difficulties is subtitling videos. In a small nonprofit, you don’t have the budget to be able to pay someone to create subtitles for all your videos (we’ve tried it, and boy, can it be expensive!), and you certainly don’t have the time to transcribe all your videos or the video-editing software to then add those transcriptions to your video. This is a real challenge, and one we’ve faced first-hand at PYD.

But lucky for you, there’s a solution! Over the course of our dealing with this challenge, we’ve come across a strategy that is free, quick, and easy for anyone to do, regardless of your technological know-how or background.

But wait, why should I subtitle videos?

There are many important reasons to subtitle your videos, but the biggest is simply that it’s an important and easy way to make your videos accessible to a wide range of people. Subtitles don’t only benefit people who are hard of hearing or deaf*, but they’re useful for non-native English speakers, people who process information better via text than through audio, or people who are watching your video at work, on their phone, or anywhere where they don’t want to be disturbed by audio. And some people just prefer to watch videos with subtitles (that’s me!).

On top of this, subtitles are an easy way to help your videos get seen more through social media. When scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, have you noticed how videos will start to auto-play, but they won’t include sound unless someone clicks on the video? Video is one of the best ways to market yourself and are still the best way to create engagement on social media, but if you don’t have subtitles, around 80% of your viewers will have no idea what you were talking about.

*I should note, written English is a second language for deaf individuals and may not be fully accessible for them. The best practice is to provide ASL interpretation for as much of your website and videos as possible. That can be challenging to provide as well, so…discussion for another day!

What is this cheap way to create subtitles?

So here’s the cool bit: if you upload your video to YouTube, Google will automatically transcribe captions and add them to your video! It’s a really nifty feature, and one that can save you a lot of time by taking out around 75% of the work needed.

Ah, yes, notice that I didn’t say YouTube would do all the work for you. Because as we all know, when computers do transcription, they will generally get close but are far from perfect. One might even call them…craptions.

If you assume that by uploading your video to YouTube, it will include perfect captions and you’ll look super inclusive to others–think again. Crappy captions are little better than having no captions, and it’s a surefire way to annoy people that are hard of hearing or deaf.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix. Once you upload to YouTube, you need to select to “Edit” your video and then navigate to the “Subtitles/CC” menu option. Once there, you’ll see that there should be a published “English (automatic)” subtitle. Click on that, and then navigate to where it says “Edit.” You can then clean up the auto-generated subtitles to make them actually usable. I’ve generally found that this editing process is considerably quicker than creating captions from scratch, and takes at most 5 minutes of editing per minute of video (e.g. 15 minutes of editing for a 3 minute video).

If that’s not your style, there are other options! NoMoreCraptions is an online service that makes editing captions on YouTube videos quicker and easier. Tech-savvy volunteers will be more than willing to help transcribe or fix your YouTube captions, especially when you explain the reason why you want to do it. And if you simply must pay someone, you can find reliable people willing to provide transcription services starting at $5 on Fiverr.

Is creating subtitles enough to make my marketing inclusive?

I’m glad you asked! The short answer is: no.

While subtitling your videos is incredibly important, it’s only one of a host of things you should do to make sure your marketing is fully inclusive of people with disabilities. There are video players you can use that are more accessible to screen readers, ways to caption photos to make them accessible, and a whole set of guidelines on how to make your website accessible. So kudos on taking a very important step, but there’s always more to learn!

If you want to learn more about inclusive marketing best practices, download our guidebook!