Creating Accessible Video and Audio Content

with Clarissa Peterson, Strategy Director at Forum One

With more video and audio being published online than ever before, it’s critical to make this content as accessible as possible. Learn strategies for improving multimedia accessibility on your websites in this tutorial.


Creating Accessible Video and Audio Content

with Clarissa Peterson

More Than 500 Hours of Content Are Now Being Uploaded To YouTube Every Minute

Clarissa Peterson: In recent years, the amount of video and auto content online has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, this presents a problem for deaf and hard of hearing people who cannot hear your content, as well as for blind people who cannot see the content in a video. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to use captions, transcriptions, and auto description to make videos more accessible.

To allow deaf and hard of hearing people to understand what’s being said in a video, you generally add captions. This is when you have text on the bottom of the screen to show the words that are being said, as well as descriptions of other sounds that are relative to the content. Most captioning is closed captioning, which means the captions aren’t visible on the video by default. You need to go to a setting to turn them on.

Many video services will have something like this little CC icon that you can click on to turn the captions on and off. (Big Idea) If you’re posting a publicly available video for a company or an organization, you do need to make sure that the video has captions so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can access it. This is not just something that is nice to have. It’s something that you need to have so that users aren’t being left out.

Nowadays, many websites such as YouTube or Facebook will automatically generate captions for your video, allow you to edit the generated captions, or let you add your own captions instead. (Best Practice) However, if you are producing a high-quality video, you should use a professional captioning service to make sure your captions are high quality. There’s a lot of nuance in getting good captions.

You need to think about the timing of the captions in relation to what’s happening on the screen, as well as where you break phrases from one screen to the next. (Best Practice) Make sure it’s included in the video’s budget from the start, not as an afterthought. You can find various captioning services online, and they’ll charge a per minute fee to caption your video.

Podcasts are also popular web content. (Best Practice) For podcasts and other audio files, you will need to provide a transcript for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. If you want to do this yourself, there are a lot of free or low cost tools that can create an automatic transcription of an audio recording. That will save you some work, but you’ll still have to go through to identify who is saying what like you see on this podcast transcript.

Without the names added, it would be difficult to make sense of the text. You’ll also need to check for errors as any automatic app or tool you use will definitely make some mistakes. (Big Idea) You can also, of course, hire a service to do transcriptions, but this is definitely something that’s easier to do on your own than it would be to do captions on your own.

I mentioned earlier that there’s something you can do to help blind people watch videos. (Best Practice) In the United States and United Kingdom, this is commonly called audio description. Basically, this is where there’s an extra audio track added to the video. The audio part of the video doesn’t always give the whole picture of what’s happening.

Usually, this extra narration is fit in between the dialogue. Here is a brief example from The Hunger Games that the Centre for Inclusive Design has shared online. All the speaking you hear is the audio description, which is an optional track, it’s not part of the movie itself.

[Video Playback]

Katniss steps through a gap in the wires and heads into the woods beyond.

[Birds Chirping]

She glances around before reaching into the hollow of a fallen tree.


She draws out a wooden bow.

[Music Playing]

[End Playback]

Clarissa Peterson: Things that are described might be the setting, the costumes, or the actions of characters. Only the parts that are relevant to the plot are included. You wouldn’t have time to describe everything that’s on the screen, and it’s not necessary. It’s only been the last several years where audio description has gotten to be more common. So many people are still unaware that it exists.

If you have a newer TV, there’s probably a setting to turn it on so you can hear more examples, or you can search for example videos online. (Best Practice) There are tools out there that will allow you to add audio description to a video yourself, but it takes a lot of skill and experience to do it well. It is probably best to hire a service that can create audio description tracks for you.

(Big Idea) One thing to note — even if you add captions and audio description to a video, keep in mind that some people just won’t want to watch a video either because they have a disability that makes it difficult or even because of personal preference. If the video communicates an important message, it’s best to also have that message or at least the main points available in regular text on the page. For more tips, check out our Resources section for links to articles and other tutorials that can help you expand on the concepts we’ve covered here. Thanks so much for watching. Don’t forget to check out the other Take 5 videos, as well as the entire course catalog here at Gymnasium.

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