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Whether you use and create your own YouTube videos, or use other people’s YouTube videos in your courses, you’ve got to review them for accessibility.  I hate to be the “Debbie Downer,” but this is one of the hardest domains to find decent, accessible instructional material. Check out why and what you can do about it.

There may be items on this page that are inaccessible for individuals with some forms of disability. These items are necessary for illustrating differences between accessible and inaccessible content. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact



Does it offer automatic captioning?

Your video does have closed-captioning, but you notice that it isn’t accurate. This is because the creator is relying on auto-captioning software. Very few YouTube Creators take the time to add/edit their own, accurate closed captioning to their videos. Instead, most rely on automatic closed captioning through YouTube’s speech recognition technology.

You can often tell whether a Creator added their own CC by the CC sentence structure (e.g., seeing punctuation, capitalization).

Alternatively, if your video only provides automatic captions, you need to review them for accuracy. This “accuracy” can make a big difference in your students ability to follow the message.

If the CC is not accurate in your video, you should:


Is closed captioning available?

Keeping hearing impaired students in mine, you should aim to use a source that provides closed-captioning.

If closed-captioning is not available, you can either:


Can you see “this” or “that”?

  • “Look at this thing.”
  • “See how it changes?”
  • “When you move this over here…”

None of these utterances make sense without the ability to see what the narrator is sharing on the screen. These are called dietetic expressions (e.g., this, that, these, those); words or phrases we use to reference things in our physical surrounding.

If understanding the narration in your video relies heavily on the ability to see what is on the screen, then the video is not accessible for the vision impaired.


Do you have to see it to understand it?

If you were to close your eyes and listen to the video, are you able to understand the main points?

Visual information is great for those that having hearing impairments, but what about the visually impaired? Many times YouTube videos will use images (or video) to communicate meaning that is not available or explained by the speech or narration.

If there is any important information from the video that could be missed because the message relies on the student’s vision, then you may consider;

  • Adding a write-up explaining the important visual elements in the video;
  • Consider finding another video to use in your class.

The important information needs to be available both visually and verbally.

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