Captions: A Faculty Guide

[Accessible Education and Student Support and Information and Library Services]

What Are Captions?

  • Captions provide synchronized text for all audio content (unlike subtitles), including dialogue, identification of speakers, music, laughter, and sound effects. They eliminate a communication barrier and ensure that people who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing have equal access to film and audio material.

Guiding Principles

  • Captioning is an inclusive design strategy that is helpful to many, not just people who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing. Ensuring that all materials are accessible from the start eliminates the need for an accommodation.
  • Bates is required by federal and state anti-discrimination laws to ensure all electronic and information technology is accessible to students with disabilities.
  • Advanced planning is key.
  • All students must have an equal opportunity to access content at the same time, in the same manner, and in the same location.
  • Auto-captions do not generally meet ADA requirements for an academic accommodation

When are captions required?

Any film or audio content being used in the classroom, online/Lyceum, or as part of the course needs to be captioned (even if optional). For audio files alone, a transcript may be sufficient (please consult with Accessible Education staff). 


  • Full length films
  • Film clips
  • Online material (ex: YouTube)
  • Class capture
  • Audio-only (ex: podcast, song)
  • Student work/presentations

Process and Steps

  1. Test your existing media to see if it is captioned: 
    • Occasionally, something will be labeled  “CC” that isn’t actually captioned
    • All captions are not created equal. Check to ensure captions meet FCC’s quality standards for Accuracy, Synchronicity, Completeness, and Placement.
  2. If media is in ILS collection, contact Chris Schiff, Music and Arts Librarian a minimum of 14 business days in advance: 
    • Chris can let you know if a captioned version is available, and if not, assist in ordering an accessible version. 
    • Do not plan on using material until it is received and checked. This is particularly important for material from Bowdoin, Colby, and other libraries. 
  3. If you are ripping materials yourself (ex: taking clips from full-length film), they must be captioned. 
    • If you do not know how to do this, consult with Chris Schiff or Michelle Holbrook-Pronovost in Digital Media Studios. 
  4. If you are creating your own content (recorded lectures, videos, etc.) you can add captions manually. We recommend using YouTube, Zoom, or Ensemble because these platforms apply auto-generated captions to all uploaded videos and they provide a user-friendly caption editing platform so the user can ensure accuracy. Please review Using & Editing Automatic Captioning.
  5. If you cannot find a captioned version of your material or if you have created your own material and would like assistance captioning, please review the following options:
    • If you have a student with an approved academic accommodation for accessible audio/visual material, please send your material to Accessible Education as soon as possible, preferably 14 business days in advance. 
    • If you do not have a student with an approved academic accommodation for accessible audio-visual course material but are interested in captioning from an inclusive design standpoint, please contact Pat Schoknecht
  6. When planning student projects, be aware that they would need to comply with all of the above if using any video or audio material.

Thank you for your partnership in ensuring equal access for students. Please reach out to us with questions or for assistance at any point.