The recent push in the need for web accessibility could become a sizable project for campus departments and offices. One area that tends to get overlooked is video accessibility. Adding closed captions to videos is an added step that many may not know how to accomplish. A great solution for this is YouTube.

In order to use YouTube for closed captioning, you will need to create a YouTube service account. YouTube has helpful information on getting started and you can check out the YouTube Help Channel for informative tutorials.

Once you have your account, upload your video to YouTube. Set the video to private so that it won’t go live without having closed captions. Once your video is uploaded and ready it will show up in your ‘Videos’ listing. The video should have an ‘Edit’ option under the date and title. Click this button to go into edit mode and select ‘Subtitles and CC’ from the options list.

Screenshot of video listing in YouTube Video Manager.

You will first be prompted to set the video language by clicking on the preferred language in the dropdown menu. Once you have selected the language, click ‘Set language.’

Screenshot of YouTube Set Video Language window.Once the language is set, you can select your Closed Captioning options. Click on the blue ‘Add new subtitles or CC’ dropdown and select ‘English.’


Screenshot of YouTube video manager and Adding new subtitles and CC options and language settings.

Next, the ‘SELECT METHOD’ options will appear for you to choose how you want to add subtitles or closed captions to your video. The first option is Upload a file which is a text transcript or timed subtitles file. YouTube provides more detailed information on the file upload if you have questions. The second option is Transcribe and auto-sync where you can type or paste in a full transcript of the video and subtitle timings will be set automatically. The third option is Create new subtitles or CC where you can create subtitles and closed captions by typing them in as you watch the video.

Below the dropdown is the ‘English (Automatic)’ option. This will transcribe the video for you, however, you may need to make corrections. A good tip is to take the YouTube auto transcription, export it, make your changes and then upload the edited transcription in the Upload file option.

Start by clicking on the ‘English (Automatic)’ button.

Screenshot of YouTube video manager where English subtitles are set.

This should open up your video with the YouTube automatic transcriptions to the left of the video. Click the ‘Actions’ dropdown to see your export options.

Screenshot of YouTube video manager showing transcription.Select what file type you want it in and export or open it to make edits. I usually do a sbv. file and open it in WordPad.

Screenshot of exported YouTube transcription in WordPad.

Make edits to the file and make sure all of the words match up with what is actually said on the video. Then save your file as a sbv or one of the three format options in YouTube.

Once you have your edited and saved transcription, go back into YouTube and exit from the transcription page.

Screenshot of YouTube transcription option exit.

This will take you back to the Manage subtitles and closed captions screen.

Screenshot of YouTube Manage subtitles and closed captions screen and where to set new file upload.

You will now need to delete the closed captions that have been attached to your video. Do so by first clicking on the ‘Add new subtitles or CC’ button and selecting English in the drop-down.

Screenshot of YouTube Manage Subtitles and CC and where to set language for upload.

This will bring you back to the ‘SELECT METHOD’ option. You will want to select the first one, ‘Upload a file.’

YouTube screenshot showing Upload a file options for transcription or subtitles files.Select what file type you want to upload. Since we did a transcription with timings that is the file type we will use. Select ‘Browse’, find your file and then upload it. The uploaded transcriptions should show up in a new page with the video on the right.

YouTube screenshot showing uploaded transcriptions next to video and publish button.

You can play the video in the editor to make sure the timing is correct. Once it is ready, hit ‘Publish’ to save your changes. The final step is updating your video settings from Private to Public if you want them to be available to everyone. If not, you can keep them Private and just provide a url to the video instead.