Vimeo and closed captioning

Vimeo is not accessible for users with hearing impairments

Yesterday’s post on Vimeo, YouTube, accessibility and closed captioning was read, and commented on, by Blake Whitman, Director of Community at Vimeo. Please note that I do not have any ill will towards Vimeo. They make neat things. I just wish that they made them accessible…which really means that their “things” aren’t as neat as they could be.

According to Blake:

I thought I would respond here as I believe there may be a misunderstanding regarding our intentions. We care a great deal about closed captioning and we fully intend to provide such support as soon as we can assign developers to the project. While YouTube has large staff and ample resources, we are a small and dedicated team that works tirelessly to meet all of our users’ needs. We did not mean to offend you or anyone else who would like to see CC support on Vimeo, and we will develop a closed captioning system as soon as we are able to. We apologize for the wait.

Blake was responding to my comment on the lack of captioning technology for Vimeo videos. My comment was driven by a comment that Blake left on the Vimeo forums:

[Captioning] is a very big project and not something that can just happen overnight. We have a lot of higher priority features in the cue right now, and when we find the appropriate time, we will definitely look into offering CC support.

My question to Blake and the folks at Vimeo is how can you “care a great deal about closed captioning” while not actually actively supporting its development?

Two years ago on the Vimeo forums, Blake set the tone regarding Vimeo’s stance on closed captioning and it seems that they really don’t care about making accessible videos a priority:

To be very honest until the demand for a feature like this increases, we probably won’t have the time to develop it.

I wonder how Vimeo is defining “demand”? The following threads on the Vimeo forums have been active for quite a while:

I think that the issue stems from how closed captions and accessibility is viewed at Vimeo. Two months ago, another Vimeo staffer, Dalas Verdugo, made the following comment about subtitles (captions):

This is obviously a useful feature, and we may be able to develop it in time, but contrary to the comments about how “easy” it would be to implement, we do not currently have any developers available to build this feature.

I apologize for any inconvenience this causes, and we’ll certainly keep this feature in mind as we continue to plan and schedule development.

This is not an inconvenience. It’s about access. People who cannot hear, cannot use Vimeo. I think that this shows that Vimeo is not about community. Communities care about all of their members…not just the ones that can hear.

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  • They may be taking the smartest approach. Take the actions that increase revenue and therefore the development team and resources, then add accessibility. It’s a tough choice, but with limited resources and time, choosing accessibility now may put them behind their competitors and out of business.

  • Curt Grymala

    Eric – You hit the nail on the head. However, you left out one very important element when related to higher education: Many of us are state-supported, meaning that we are required by law to follow the accessibility guidelines laid out in section 508 (at least, that’s my understanding – it may vary from state-to-state, though). Therefore, not only is it impossible for hard-of-hearing users to use Vimeo videos, it is extremely unwise (like, you could lose your job over it) for any state-supported institutions (including higher education institutions) to use Vimeo for any video content.

    That’s what really hurts from my perspective. I would love to use Vimeo or Viddler in lieu of YouTube, but the bottom line is that neither provides an easy way of captioning videos and/or providing textual representations of the non-text content, which means I can’t.

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  • Perhaps Vimeo can let the “community” develop the closed captioning. Maybe build a contest around it.

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  • I only hope that accessibility becomes more of a priority to Vimeo in the near future. Perhaps if someone told them that enabling the option of providing captions to video will increase its web presence (web search engines search text, video is a ‘black hole’ currently)…?

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  • I’ve been waiting for Vimeo to add captioning and was incredibly disappointed to find the thread mentioned above. I found it several months ago when I was hoping to recommend them possibly as a video solution for the major private university I work for. Our own online video channel did not support captioning at the time — with lots of continual pushing it went through and captions are now supported.

    However, as an independent filmmaker I love the clarity of Vimeo and the fact that it supports longer clips and short films produced by the average Joe. YouTube does not (there’s a 10 minute duration limit unless you have your own “channel”). So I am still disappointed that I can’t recommend it to friends and clients. How tough could it be for them to raise funds to add in support for captioning?

    I love the idea of a contest!

    Vimeo, I hope you’re listening. Create a contest and all of us accessibility advocates will tweet the heck out of it and assist you in getting some help from developers. I triple dog dare you to stand behind your assertion that “you care a great deal about captions”.

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  • As a programmer, I can tell you this statement is utter BS:
    “[Captioning] is a very big project and not something that can just happen overnight”

    It’s a simple subroutine to add captioning support to any video playing software. Your biggest problem is deciding what format to support. Subrib (.srt) is the most popular and easiest to support.

  • Ccacaptioning

    Good discussion Eric – keep up the exchange with Vimeo and let us (the CCAC) know how to help. 
    Totally right and real, as you say: it’s a question of access (which many do not see as a priority sadly). We are as valuable as any other “users” and customers. Our hunch is that SEO will drive online media to include quality cc sooner rather than later. Yet the needs of millions count (not only deaf, deafened and hoh, yet also millions of others who use quality captioning inclusion for other good reasons). 
    Lauren/CCAC/ – join us – free – and your voice surely counts with us – we are not your average online network – we actively push new captioning inclusion on many levels.

  • Dean

    We support captioning on the Vimeo video player at However, there’s no way to import those captions onto the site.

  • Tole

    You can add closed captions and subtitles to Vimeo using the 3Play Media captions plugin:

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  • Zorro x2020

    I think Close Captioning and embedding Annotations into Videos really Stinks! How about plain Subtitles (SRT).