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Subtitle video and audio recordings

Video and audio must be accessible to everyone under the Act on the Accessibility of Digital Public Services. Offer alternatives if a recording consists only of audio or video.

Video and audio files that people and search engines like

  • Films must be subtitled if they are to be published on the website.
  • Recordings of live broadcasts must be subtitled within 14 days from the broadcast date.
  • Subtitles must be able to be switched on and off by users.
  • Text versions of video and audio files are good for users dependent on screen readers.
  • Videos without sound should be accompanied by a text version describing the content.

Videos must have subtitles

Recorded digital video must have subtitles (text descriptions or text strips). People who cannot perceive or understand sound or cannot access the visual content of video recordings can, in many cases, benefit from the content if it is in text format. 

The law requires: Subtitle the audio in recorded movies (Webbriktlinjer, in Swedish)

Subtitles have many benefits

  • Over 1.5 million people in Sweden have a hearing impairment. Most need subtitles so as to understand what is being said. 

  • People who hear well can also benefit from subtitles in places with a lot of background noise and in situations when the sound cannot be turned on. 

  • 90 per cent of people who check social media videos have the sound muted. 

  • People with another first language can understand films more easily if they are subtitled. 

  • Subtitles increase searchability on the web. Words and phrases in the subtitles help Google to match searches with your video so that more people find it. 

  • Studies show that subtitles create a higher level of engagement among viewers. 

Captions should be closed

Open captions are visible to everyone. Closed captions can be displayed at the user's discretion. In some cases, they can also be read by screen readers. Closed captions are, therefore, a must on the web. Sometimes, the user can also choose the translation, font, the position of the text strip, etc. 

Describe all sounds of importance 

Subtitles should, in addition to dialogue, describe other sounds of importance, such as "telephone rings" or "someone coughs". Subtitles do not generally need to be verbatim, the important thing is that they convey the same information. 

Guide for video captioning

Feel free to offer a separate text version 

A transcription (a document that contains all of the recording's subtitles) or another text description of the content allows people using screen readers or Braille readers to absorb the content at their own pace. 

A transcription of the film is also good for search engine optimisation because it provides an opportunity for search engines and other tools to interpret the content. 

The text should contain descriptions of environments, explanations or comments that can be useful in understanding the context. For example, this may be someone who laughs on the film or turns and moves towards a certain direction. 

If the subtitles are in a separate file (rather than encoded in the film's image information), the texts can be automatically extracted and presented as a transcription.  

Videos without audio should also be accompanied by a text version describing the content.

The law requires: Use audio description or offer alternatives to video recordings (in Swedish)

Text live transmissions 

The law exempts live transmissions, but if the transmission can be accessed retrospectively it counts as a recording after 14 days and is not exempted. This means that the recording must be subtitled after 14 days. 

The law requires: text live transmissions (Webbriktlinjer, in Swedish)

Audio recordings

For audio recordings, such as podcasts, a text version should be provided. This is important in order not to exclude users who are not able to understand the recording.

Inform the user that there are different options 

For example, users who find one presentation through a search engine need to be informed that the other version exists. Alternative presentation formats can be of great importance for searchability, but only if it appears that they are alternative presentations of the same thing. 

You can do that by inserting a link to alternative formats (or making it accessible in other ways) in the places where the video occurs. By linking to the video from the text version, you will also enable the user to find the video.

The text should be called text version for clarity and consistency.