How to Create Transcripts

To produce a descriptive transcript, it is recommended to start with an accurate caption file and then add in the appropriate level of description.

Writing a Transcript

Create Your Document

You can create your transcript using Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or TextEdit/Notepad.

Set Up Your Microsoft Word Document

  • Turn off Special Characters

    • In the Word menu, select Preferences.

    • On the the "AutoCorrect" tab:

      • Uncheck the box for "replace text as you type."

    • Under the "AutoFormat as you Type" tab:

      • Uncheck the box for "smart quotes."

      • Uncheck the box for "symbol character (--)."

Please Note: These directions are for MSWord 2016 for Mac. Steps may vary in other versions.

Start with Captions

Open your caption text file in TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad (PC). Highlight and copy the text from your caption file and paste it into your new file, removing the timestamps.

If you do not have captions to start with, you may order captions or listen to the recording and transcribe it yourself.

Add Description (Sounds and Visuals)

Transcripts should include more than just what is being said. Some videos don't have speech in them, yet they still have transcripts.

Be sure to include:

  • important audio cues/sound effects

  • words on screen

  • descriptions of actions

  • visual characteristics that give context


When authoring transcripts for accessibility purposes, be sure to include text for all audio that is spoken including meaningful sounds. Ask yourself, does leaving out this sound change the story, lesson or experience? The writer must use his or her own judgment.

For example, should you indicate in captions/transcript that someone has coughed?

  • Someone is giving the commencement address and pauses to cough — not necessary to include.

  • Character in a play is coughing, because it foreshadows her later death — important to the story, include.


  • Include visual descriptions for people who are unable to see the screen, but may have assistive technology read the transcript to them.

  • Include images and text appearing on screen, as appropriate.

  • Details: You do not need to go overboard with details such as what a person is wearing (unless it is part of a plot point) or that a person is pointing with his left hand as opposed to his right. You want to get any meaningful visual changes across. If it impacts the story or improves the clarity of a lecture, include it. If the dialogue covers the text on screen, you do not need to repeat it.

  • In the file, descriptions of the visuals for a particular scene should be included after the text of what is spoken.

Note: Audio-only files like podcasts will not include visual descriptions, but will include sounds relevant to the story.

Adding a Transcript to a Website

  1. Send the transcript file to Please indicate the URL of your website.
  2. Your file will be converted to screen reader-friendly HTML and added to your website. Note: This may take up to a week.
  3. Your transcript or a link to it should be available anywhere your video is found. If the video can also be viewed on YouTube, include a link to the transcript in the video description.

Having a descriptive transcript doesn't mean you don't need captions on your video. Captions are always required for videos, even if the video is silent (captions or note reads: "no audio") or there is only music (captions briefly describe music). Audio description, however, does take care of the transcript requirement.