Captioning time-based media (videos, podcasts) – instructions and example cases for teachers


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Videos in light of the Act on the Provision of Digital Services

According to the Act on the Provision of Digital Services (306/2019), from 23 September 2020 onwards, all new videos uploaded to the university website must be accessible. These include all Aalto University event, presentation and lecture videos, which must be captioned in the language of the presentation. Similarly, videos streamed live on the website and other online services (live broadcasts) must be captioned within 14 days of publication. The length of the video does not affect the captioning requirement, as short and long videos must both be captioned. It may also be necessary to add audio description.

The intention behind the act is not to prevent the publication of materials or to require them to be taken offline if they do not meet the accessibility requirements. From the viewpoint of the accessibility of education, the act ensures equal opportunities to study.

What is an accessible video?

There are two ways to create an accessible video: by adding captions or by providing a text alternative for the spoken content. The basic terms in this context are ‘captions’ (open or closed), ‘text alternative’ and ‘media alternative’.

  • Captions appear as part of the video and they are time-based, i.e. read in pace with the spoken audio.
  • A text alternative is a separate file whose contents correspond to the presentation recorded in the video or audio file.
  • A media alternative is a video or audio file whose contents correspond to the separate text alternative. When producing media, ensure that the text and the video that acts as its media alternative are easily findable in the same location.

Using a text alternative

  1. Link to the text alternative: Add the link immediately next to the media file (audio/video). By following the link, the user can access a text alternative such as a website (HTML, recommended) or a PDF file


    Video title: ‘Open University courses in 2021’. A link below the video: ‘Open University courses in 2021’.

  2. Text alternative on the same page: When uploading a video, include a short written description of its content. Specify the heading under which its text alternative can be found. In the title of the text alternative, specify the video in question.


    Video title: ‘Open University courses in 2021. A text alternative is available on this page in the section Open University courses in 2021.’

Exceptions regarding the accessibility of teaching

  • The act does not require that live video and audio streams comply with accessibility requirements. In practice, you do not need to provide captions or audio description to live streams unless the streams are stored for later use.
  • Teachers may use educational content that does not comply with the requirements, but only for temporary use and for a limited audience. In this case, temporary use refers to the duration of one term (or 1–3 periods) (website in Finnish).
  • As a result of the temporary use exception, teachers and students may produce content to be used during teaching without having a comprehensive understanding of accessibility requirements or the technology that would be needed to create accessible content.
  • Another significant benefit of this exception is that it enables limited groups to develop and test new kinds of services and content.
  • Note: The maximum length of temporary use is one term (website in Finnish)

Digital study materials and study services used during courses must be edited to meet accessibility requirements if they will be used permanently, not only in the current but also in the following course or academic year. As most learning environments and online courses are used every academic year, they must be accessible. Video and audio files that are used repeatedly must also be accessible. Further information about the accessibility of files (PDF, Word, Excel): https://www.aalto.fi/en/aaltofi-website/digital-accessibility

Example cases for teachers

This section includes example cases where pre-recorded time-based media is linked to or used during a course. The course is organised as a webinar and includes links to materials stored in different services.

1. The course holds a meeting as a webinar on Zoom or MS Teams. The teacher uploads a PowerPoint presentation to MyCourses. The online meeting will be recorded as a video that will later become available to the students attending the course.

The teacher opens the online meeting with a 20-minute lecture, going through the PowerPoint presentation. After opening the session, the teacher divides the students into small groups to prepare questions and discuss the presentation. At the end, everyone returns to the large group discussion where the teacher will respond to the groups’ questions.

The lecture and the recording of the large group discussion need captions only if they will be used for other courses. The students’ work in the small groups does not need to be captioned. The PowerPoint presentation distributed to the students must be accessible.

2. The course holds a webinar discussion (e.g. a Zoom call) based on the preliminary materials.

The teacher has uploaded the preliminary materials to MyCourses. The students go through the materials before the Zoom meeting. The meeting will discuss the materials distributed in advance. The discussion will be recorded for later viewing and distributed on MyCourses to the students attending the course.

Add captions to the teacher’s remarks, i.e. the spoken parts that do not correspond to the text alternative. Note: The preliminary materials (PPT, PDF, etc.) of the course must be accessible. The recording does not need to be captioned while the course is still ongoing. It must be captioned, however, if it will be used in other courses.

Further information: https://www.saavutettavuusvaatimukset.fi/lait-ja-standardit/mita-palveluja-ja-sisaltoja-laki-koskee/#poikkeukset (website in Finnish)

3. A recording is made of an online lecture (there are no requirements on what platform the teacher should use to store the video – for example YouTube or Panopto where the students can find the video by following a link)

The teacher independently created the recording (video and audio) using a self-service studio. The video is available on MyCourses to the students attending the course.

Captions are required if the video will be permanently available. Note: The intended use of the video (e.g. only intended for the course) does not matter. All time-based media distributed online must be captioned or equipped with a text alternative (a separate text file whose content is identical to the spoken parts of the video).

Further information: https://www.saavutettavuusvaatimukset.fi/lait-ja-standardit/siirtymaajat/#videot (website in Finnish)

4. An assignment is given by means of video.

The teacher records (a video with audio) an assignment and uploads it to the course page.

Captions are required.

5. Study instructions in video format

The teacher creates an instructional video on how to use a program that the students need during the course. On the video, she explains the functions and different uses of the program.

Captions are required.

General captioning instructions

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