YouTube’s Newest Accessibility-Focused Features You Need to Know About

December 10, 2021 BY KELLY MAHONEY

In October, YouTube announced plans to improve their closed captioning & subtitling features in an effort to improving the overall accessibility of the platform. Similar features have been introduced before, but these releases were previously limited by subscriber counts or supported languages. Keep reading to learn how YouTube is expanding their captioning capabilities, translations, and audio preferences.


Add auto captions to your YouTube livestream


Expansion of live automatic captioning

The first of YouTube’s accessibility-focused features now allows creators to enable live automatic captions on any livestream (in English). While users have had the ability to attach caption or subtitle files to their video uploads for years, YouTube Live has been historically inaccessible to users who require captions. Although automatic captions are not always the most accurate, the introduction of this feature is certainly a step in the right direction to make live events more accessible on YouTube.

Previously, enablement of closed captioning for live video was a feature exclusively reserved for channels with more than 1,000 subscribers. Now, the only restriction is language-based: as mentioned, the feature currently supports English-only livestreams, but the company intends to further expand this feature to include 13 languages supported by the platform’s automatic captioning.

Auto-translation for mobile captions

Currently only available on desktop, YouTube plans to roll out automatic translation of captions for mobile users on Android & iOS. The platform already offers localized user interfaces that translate video metadata (including the title & description), and this auto-translation update expands the functionality to include the video’s content as well.

Search caption transcripts on mobile

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If you’re watching a video offers closed captions, there is likely a transcript file associated with that video. Video transcripts have proven useful to users with disabilities, non-native English speakers, and viewers in sound-sensitive environments.

Given the benefits of transcription, YouTube announced the addition of searchable transcripts on mobile. This feature has existed on desktop, but now gives mobile users the option to type keywords in the search bar to locate corresponding timestamps in the video.

Multi-audio tracks & audio description

The ability to add multiple audio tracks is currently being tested with a small group of creators, and will hopefully be released to all creators in the coming months. This feature will allow for the addition of audio tracks in multiple languages – which enhances the user experience for international viewers – as well as descriptive audio tracks, which are beneficial to blind and low-vision users.

Subtitle editor channel permission

YouTube announced the introduction of their Subtitle Editor, which will soon be offered as a new channel permission in the creator Studio. The feature is still being worked on but once released, channel managers will be able to assign the task of creating captions or subtitles to a particular trusted user.

Want to learn how you can include captions in your next YouTube livestream?

YouTube auto captions – learn how to add automatic captions to your YouTube livestream. With link to download guide

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