March 27 2020

Best Practices for ADA Accessible Video and Audio Content

There are now more ways than ever before to relay a message and communicate on a universal level, and video is one of the most popular. It’s no surprise that 96% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 watch videos several times a week, and 75% of millennials watch at least one video daily.

But as video content is increasingly produced, it is critical to ensure that all audiences can consume this content – disability or not. Website ADA guidelines (WCAG 2.1) require a transcript to accompany all videos but best practices for video transcriptions are often unknown. Explore this article to understand what will allow your video and audio transcripts to be most useful to audiences – resulting in a fair video user experience for all.

Transcripts are Key Tools

Video and audio transcripts can be read by screen readers, accessed by viewers that have a hearing impairment and translated into any language. These transcripts also ensure that no piece of information in the video or audio file is missed by buffering, background noise, or other potential distractions.

  • Audio-Only Recordings: Text transcripts can be posted alongside audio-only recordings for individuals that have a hearing impairment, and also allow this multimedia content to be keyword searchable which helps user experience and potentially SEO.

  • Don’t Just Use Computers: There are plenty of auto-transcribing tools that exist, however, these aren’t always accurate. Instead, it’s recommended to manually edit these transcripts to ensure they are as accurate as possible.

  • Broaden Your Audience to Include Multilingual Consumers: A customer whose primary language is not English may have difficulty listening to English audio recordings. With multilingual audio transcripts, these visitors will be able to access these parts of your website with ease.

  • Use Transcript Files for Captions: Transcripts can be a simple approach to creating captions for videos, especially on common platforms such as YouTube. Video transcriptions only contain what is actually spoken within the video and allow users that have a hearing impairment to experience the video through more accessible means.

The Importance of Captions

Additionally, closed captions, which synchronize text verbal speech as well as lyrics, sound effects, and countless other audio components, are essential auditory elements of a video necessary for understanding its message and key information. For viewers that have a hearing impairment, closed captions not only optimize their experience of interacting with the content in the video, but they also provide voice in the conversation that is otherwise difficult to participate in.

  • Optimizing Captions: Make sure the text size, font, and color are easily visible to people with all ranges of vision. If possible, provide viewers with the option to adjust the text size and font to better accommodate their individual needs.

  • Consider Multilingual Audiences: Provide captions in multiple languages for viewers that have a hearing impairment, to experience the video content translated in their native languages. Closed captioning in different languages can be added to media player platforms, such as YouTube, by translating the original language file and adding the new subtitles as additional options to the original video.

  • Not Just for Viewers That Have a Hearing Impairment: While your viewers can’t always mute the background noise from the surrounding world, captions are also helpful to viewers of all abilities. If a word is missed, muffled or confused, or if external or even ambient noise overpowers the audio from the video on the various devices, captions are helpful in preventing important information from getting lost in the shuffle.

  • Essentials for Search Engine Optimization: Including captions is important to ensure that your video content is accessible and able to be discovered by search engines that rely on the text captions to categorize content from the video and present to potential audience members.

Media Players Matter, Too

It’s smart to provide viewers with an option to screen the video without sound. This is helpful for viewers in situations where the audio component of the video would be disruptive to others in the environment or present a potential distraction. In addition, you should provide a version of the video with low background audio for viewers who might prefer this. Avoid excessive motion, sudden flashing lights or images to accommodate viewers that experience seizures or prevent dizziness to individuals that have vestibular disorders.
To support users that have a hearing impairment, be sure to choose an accessible media player, such as YouTube or Vimeo, as the foundation that, combined with the pillars of your accessibility technologies, acts as essential structures to support the main video content.
Ensure that the media player you choose can be operated without the use of a mouse, as voice command technologies have become popular tools for accessing content like videos. In addition, make sure automatic auto play settings on videos don’t disrupt screen reading technologies in the process.

Accessible Audio for All

For viewers who are blind, it’s important to provide audio descriptions of the video content in addition to a transcript of the speech from the video. Transcriptions typically only showcase the spoken word within the video. Therefore, by providing audio descriptions to persons who are visually impaired, they can experience other aspects of the video beyond just spoken word.
The same goes for those who are hearing impaired. The international deaf community thrives as its own vital and unique culture, yet videos interpreted in sign language are less common than other methods of making video content accessible. Providing this feature is a deliberate and impactful method of reaching out and connecting with their community.
If you’re considering presenting viewers with live videos, consider enlisting an American Sign Language interpreter if real time closed captions for the video are not possible to include audience members that have a hearing impairment in partaking in the live nature of an important moment. Presenting the information in Sign Language allows audience members of a spectrum of hearing ability to join in the experience and share in the feeling that they are participants in virtually streaming important events that they cannot physically attend. For lip readers, the ASL interpreting can prevent them from missing information that can be disrupted by buffering, camera technical issues or a range of other interruptions.
As technologies to produce video content only continue to develop, the need to connect with all members of your audience grows stronger. By enhancing your videos with these essential features and tools, you are ensuring that every individual that encounters your content is aware that you are communicating directly with them, and taking every possible measure to make sure each member of your audience is on the same page. To discuss your website's accessibility with an expert, contact ZAG Interactive.

  • Content
  • Website Compliance

posted by
Danielli Franquim
Danielli Franquim
Sr. QA & Certified Accessibility Analyst

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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