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Descriptive transcript

A descriptive transcript is a full text equivalent of the content in a video — that is, of all the meaningful audio and visual information presented in the video.

See the latest guidance on descriptive text transcripts

This page is currently out of date — for the latest guidance on this topic, see Descriptive text transcript — NZ Government.

What is a descriptive transcript

A descriptive transcript exists as a text alternative in a separate file, outside of the video file. It can be accessed by search engines and assistive technologies.

A descriptive transcript is not just a copy of the captions. The idea is that it can be read instead of watching and listening to the video, without losing any of the important information.

How a descriptive transcript makes a video more accessible

Descriptive transcripts provide access to video content for people who:

  • are hearing or visually impaired
  • prefer to read, scan or search the text version of the video’s content
  • do not have enough mobile data to stream the content.

For people who are deafblind, the descriptive transcript will be their only access to the content of the video. This enables the content to be translated by braille devices.

Meeting the Web Accessibility Standard

When you provide a descriptive transcript for a video, you meet the following WCAG Success Criteria:

How to create a descriptive transcript

You can use the caption file for the video as the basis for creating your descriptive transcript.

If you used to generate the caption file, you’ll need to download it from the site. 

When writing the descriptive text to accompany the dialogue in the video, imagine you’re writing a screenplay for a film. Make sure you include text descriptions of any and all meaningful visual information communicated in the video.

Additional visual information in descriptive transcripts

In addition to the spoken words and important sounds in the video, a descriptive transcript includes meaningful visual elements like:

  • words that appear on the screen without being spoken — for example, the written words on a sign, like ‘Caution, enter at your own risk’
  • where the scene is taking place — for example, in a cave
  • who is in the scene and what’s happening — for example, Jane and Rex are climbing a rock wall side by side.

Testing your video’s descriptive transcript

Check that your descriptive transcript accurately describes all meaningful sounds and spoken words, as well as all visually communicated information in the video. The idea is that someone could understand all the information in the video without having to watch it.

More information on descriptive transcripts

Transcripts — W3C

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