Accessibility of Web 2.0 Video

CaptionFor a long time I’ve been searching for a teacher-friendly tool for adding captions to video. For obvious reasons, we consider video and media captions to be provided solely for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. But “…research is examining the potential for captions as a learning tool for acquiring English-language and reading skills. These studies are looking at how captions can reinforce vocabulary, improve literacy, and help people learn the expressions and speech patterns of spoken English” (National Center for Accessible Media). It’s not obvious that the use of captions might be a literacy tool. The image on this post is a stillshot of a captioned video that was produced by my colleagues at ALLTech for an online assistive technology course.

You know you’re obsessed with universal design when you approach a hip Web 2.0 technology through a lens of accessibility. And that’s exactly what happened to me earlier this morning. While catching up on some blogs that I’ve fallen behind on, I found Omnisio. According to its Web site, a user can annotate an uploaded video by adding “in-video comments.” If you go and browse* the videos, you might think I’m crazy to think that such a feature might be relevant as a substitute for captioning…but that’s never stopped me from making radical leaps to universal access. The “add-in comments” are meant as a participatory tool – a means by which Omnisio viewers can either cheer or heckle one’s uploaded video…on the video. This is a bit different from YouTube, on which viewers can positively or negatively construe videos, but on a designated comments page. Omnisio also hosts a comment area for each video, which supplements the annotations that viewers can insert over the video itself.

What most intrigues me about the “add-in” feature is that it appears that a user can insert a comment anywhere they wish. This lends to the possibility that captions can be inserted in sync with a video.

If you go there and view a featured video or two (“Steve Ballmer-goes-nuts” is, well, “wow”), you’re really going to think I’m unhinged. But that didn’t stop me from sending Omnisio a question on their feedback link…the possibility of extending a feature designed for one purpose to a broader application. A unique inquiry, I’m sure!

*Omnisio videos require Adobe Flash Player 9, which is not installed on the MLTI laptops.

6 comments so far

  1. Ryan on

    Thanks for checking out Omnisio! The company was actually founded with the goal of improving online education, although we have since (obviously) broadened our scope.

    We are definitely looking into how we can make our technology more suitable for the use case you describe.

    Kind Regards,

    Ryan Junee
    CEO & Co-Founder, Omnisio

  2. Nancy on

    Our daughter (now 30) is hearing impaired so we had a captioner while she was growing up. Now that she’s gone, we still have the captioning on and do the same at hotels, etc. I’ve always been surprised that schools don’t use it more in regular classrooms as a literacy tool.

  3. Cynthia Curry on


    Thanks for your comment as well as your e-mail. I sent a reply this morning that details some possibilities for adapting your product as a teacher-friendly video-caption-creator. I also included suggestions for ways to promote Omnisio as a teacher/student video annotation tool (to be offered on a separate site dedicated to education, of course!).


  4. Cynthia Curry on


    I agree with you – I think it’s simply lack of awareness.

    As a related example, my husband teaches middle school science and some years ago had a student with a sensory disability. As an accommodation for her, her classrooms were equipped with a sound amplification system. One day, this girl was absent from school, so my husband started class without using the microphone. The students erupted in dismay – they wanted the mic on! Indeed, research has shown that sound amplification improves all students’ ability to receive information and attend to class discussions.

    The student for whom the system was installed has now graduated from high school, but it was never removed from my husband’s classroom. To this day he uses it.


  5. Josh on

    Overstream allows you to actually caption a video yourself, edit the timing etc. Basically, pull in the video stream from You Tube, and over lay the captioning. From there, you can either stream the video from the site or embed it in another site.
    There’s also Project Read On, but last I knew they weren’t optimized for Internet Explorer. With this site, you would give them a url and they’d caption it. Then you could watch is from their site, or embed the player on your own site.
    Anyhow, some other good options.

  6. Cynthia Curry on

    Thank you, Josh! These are great leads. I’ve checked out both and these are my thoughts as related to MLTI –

    I like Overstream because it gives the control of the captioning to the user. One disadvantage is that most (if not all) of the host video sites are blocked in most schools (e.g. YouTube, MySpace,…). Many school filters are tightly controlled, and in many cases, teachers are unfortunately given very little power to bypass a blocked site.

    Project Read On, however, seems to have a lot of potential. Many teachers will like the fact that captioning is done for them. The MLTI laptops are equipped with Safari and Firefox (IE is no longer available for Macs).

    Thanks to you I’ve sent an inquiry to PRO, asking how schools are using their service.

    Again, many thanks!


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