Increasingly, universities across the country are facing legal challenges based on user complaints about inaccessible websites, instructional materials, products, and services.

CSU campuses are required by policy and law to ensure that their websites, instructional materials and electronic and information technology products and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Many of these resources, e.g., multimedia and video, require captioning to be considered accessible. This webpage is intended to provide general guidance for addressing your campus’s captioning efforts and point you towards resources that may be helpful.

The CSU Captioning Guidelines was developed as a collaborative effort among five CSU campuses and the Chancellor's Office as part of a system-wide effort to create a set of guidelines that could be adopted or adapted by any one of the 23 CSU campuses.

The benefits of using captioning to improve student comprehension, engagement, and performance have been proven in a multitude of studies.

Establishment of strong administrative and executive support is critical to fulfilling the commitment codified in Executive Order (EO) 1111 This link will take you to an external website in a new tab.. Pursuant to EO 1111, campus presidents are charged with establishing a campus committee and overseeing campus ATI activities.

When planning and implementing ATI activities on campus, some of the ATI goals will require investments in and changes to business procedures requiring time, budget and personnel to deploy  within a large, diverse CSU community. Given that there are finite resources (e.g. staffing, time, and tools) available each year to work on these goals, campuses should select ATI implementation activities that target accessibility barriers with the greatest impact. 

Just as accessibility barriers often develop over a period of years, remediation activities will sometimes require years to fully implement. During this extended remediation period, the CSU should work to achieve incremental improvements in barrier removal each year. This is achieved by prioritizing projects and activities. The ATI covers a broad range of accessibility goals involving products in use across all university programs and services.

The guidelines within this webpage relate to a specific ATI goal and success indicator for multimedia access:

  • Instructional Materials Goal 5.0 – Accessibility Requirements for Multimedia - The campus has implemented policies and procedures to ensure that accessibility has been incorporated into multimedia, interactive content, and emerging instructional technologies.
  • Instructional Materials Success Criteria 5.11 Develop a process for creating, selecting, adopting, and remediating audio and video assets.

It is critical that the CSU document the substantive steps related to removing barriers to multimedia that have been taken over time. This approach establishes a credible institutional commitment to equal access for persons with disabilities and facilitates reporting during campus audits.

An important step is to consider how captioning will be prioritized and funded on each campus.

Per CSU policy, Executive Order 1111 This link will take you to an external website in a new tab., the CSU is required to make its programs, services, and activities accessible to students, faculty, staff, and the public, with disabilities. This includes, but is not limited to, multimedia programs and services as well as multimedia materials.

Multimedia includes a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, or video regardless of delivery system.

Since the volume of captioning needed is immense which makes full compliance challenging (e.g., within semester or quarter time constraints), it is important for campuses to decide how to provide and support captioning. Prioritizing this effort is critical; decisions need to be based on the impact towards students, faculty, staff, and the public.

Prioritization Guidance

High Priority:

  • An accommodation is requested from a student, staff member, or other person who requires captioning.
  • Multimedia will be shared multiple times and/or over an extended period of time.
  • Multimedia is reused in new courses and newly revised segments of existing courses.
  • Multimedia is used in a course for more than one semester.
  • If captioning is required for one semester, the quality must be clear enough to allow equivalent access (defined as the ability to infer the meaning of whole sentences). Note: At this time, automatic speech recognition (e.g., YouTube automatic captioning) is not acceptable due to the tendency for errors, unless auto-captions are manually fixed by the content owner.
  • Multimedia is on a public facing web page (e.g. commencements or other public-facing streamed or recorded events, news and marketing videos).

Other prioritization considerations:

  • Any multimedia that is purchased should be delivered in a captioned state. If not, the campus must ensure that captioning will be done upon receipt.
  • Archived materials are to be captioned upon request. Caption frequently requested materials.
  • If the campus cannot provide the resources or cannot support specific technical concerns, then captioning should be outsourced. This requires funding, so each campus budget must accommodate it.
  • Commencements or other public-facing events that are streamed or recorded, news and marketing videos may require outside services.
  • Captioning is a low priority if lecture capture is used to post a lecture that is a review of a face-to-face class, and will only be available for one semester, and you have verified that you do not have an accommodation request.

It can sometimes take a village to handle captioning requirements at a campus, with many different functional areas and roles that might be responsible or be assigned the various responsibilities. This section focuses on captioning functions and responsibilities, since job titles vary system wide.

External Services

Commercial and consulting services provide audio, visual and multimedia solutions for campus and public use.

  • ICT Vendors are responsible for providing Accessibility Conformance Reports (ACRs) and an Accessibility Roadmap for products/services that require captioning.
  • For purchasing media related to captioning refer to the campus ATI Procurement process.
  • The following are critical questions to ask before choosing a captioning solution:
    • Does the vendor use professional transcribers, crowd-sourcing, or speech recognition in the process? What steps are taken to ensure high quality captions?
    • How easily will it integrate with the IT infrastructure on your campus, e.g., lecture capture platform, learning management system, university website, network, etc.? 
    • How long does it take to provide captions?
    • How easy is it to get up and running?
    • Is the captioning service provider reliable and easy to work with?
    • What is the cost per hour? What is the minimum cost for videos running less than an hour?
    • Are there extra charges for faster turnaround and difficult audio?
    • Are there any setup charges or extra fees for special content?
    • What media formats and captions are provided?
  • When an outside vendor is used, a process for accessing the services should be widely publicized to the campus community.  Administrative contacts should be identified, and information about costs and services provided.
  • In addition, campuses are encouraged to embed links to captioning resources into their LMS.

Internal Services

IT Support

Web Services provides web technology strategies and solutions that facilitate openness and sharing, encourage collaboration, and enhance communication.

  • Content Managers, owners and editors are responsible for facilitating the captioning in real time in-house or as needed from approved CSU vendors.
  • Instructional Design and Information Technology Support offices provide consultation and training to faculty regarding the inclusion of captioned media into their courses. These offices will also evaluate and determine captioning needs for each video and facilitate the captioning as needed for the client.

Disability Services Office

Each campus Disability Services Office provides resources and disability related accommodations to assist with educational goals and student success. They may also provide consultation and training to faculty on captioning media into their courses.

Academic Department

Academic departments consult with IT Support and/or their Disability Services Office to determine needs for videos and ensure that all media that must be captioned is done prior to delivery.

Communication & Marketing

The Commencement Office or Coordinator will consult with IT and/or their Disability Services Office to coordinate captioning for videos and streamed, live events. Events and videos may include graduations, sporting events, Convocations, etc. The Social Media Manager will coordinate captioning for social media sites as needed.

Captioning Methods

There are a number of captioning methods campuses can employ to create high quality captions for multimedia content. 

Commercial Captioning service

We strongly recommend contracting with professional captioning service providers. Their expertise allows them to work more quickly than you could, plus they can easily avoid pitfalls that an inexperienced captionist may miss.

The CSU has negotiated a systemwide contract with Automatic Sync Technologies This link will take you to an external website in a new tab.. Account access is available through CaptionSync CSU System Account Sign Up This link will take you to an external website in a new tab..

In addition, there are other, perhaps local, captioning providers you might use. The Described and Captioned Media Program This link will take you to an external website in a new tab. maintains a list of Captioning Services.


Some CSU campuses have established offices that can create your captions. Check with your Disabilities Services Office, or other on-site services. For example, CSU Northridge hosts the National Center on Deafness This link will take you to an external website in a new tab..

Do It Yourself (DIY)

  • Published Guidelines/Best Practices - Before you begin, make sure that you’re familiar with expert guidelines and best practices.
  • While we don’t embrace self-captioning, we know that there are times it may be necessary. Online tools are available that allow you to add captions through a web interface. Registration is sometimes required. Many options are available at no cost for both Windows and Mac.
  • Please keep in mind DIY tools may leave you open to a high error rate.  At times one word in a sentence being incorrect can totally change the meaning of the sentence. This leaves individuals out of critical communication. In addition simple words being misinterpreted can lead to embarrassing mistakes.


Online Tools

DIY-based Tools
Commercial tools
Free tools

The following resources provide information about best practices for captioning:


The series of video webinars posted here were created by CaptionSync as part of our Automatic Sync service. The links will take you to CaptionSync's website.

CaptionSync Accessibility