Why a Transcript Is Not Enough to Make Your Videos Compliant with Accessibility Law
Updated: January 4, 2018
If you want to make your online videos accessible to people with disabilities, you’ll need more than just a video transcript.
Transcripts are adequate to make audio content accessible to deaf or hard-of-hearing users, but videos need closed captions and video description to be fully accessible to everyone.
Closed captions are a textual representation of the sounds on a video, timed with the action on screen. They capture not just the speech but also essential sounds, like [doorbell], [laughter], [applause], etc.
Closed captions appear on the bottom (or top) of the screen as the video plays. This allows the viewer to read the text and absorb the visuals at the same time.
“Ultimately, a video transcript does not offer an equivalence experience for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers.”
Without closed captions, a deaf viewer would have to switch back and forth between watching a video and reading a transcript.
This is a very distracting, disjointed experience.
They can easily lose their place, miss key elements on screen, get out-of-sync with the video — ultimately, a video transcript does not offer an equivalence experience for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers.
The ADA requires that an equivalent alternative be provided for people with disabilities. Providing just a video transcript would fall short of effective accommodation.
Federal disability law Section 508 will soon require that online video comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards for accessibility. WCAG 2.0 Level A, the lowest form of compliance, requires closed captions for all pre-recorded video.
In short, closed captions are necessary for your video to comply with the ADA and Section 508.
Important visual elements of videos must be communicated to blind or low-vision users in order to be fully compliant with accessibility law. A video description communicates all necessary visual information, such as who is in screen, where they are, what they are doing, their facial expressions, and any writing that is on the screen.
QUIZ: What Captioning Laws Apply to You?
Take this quick quiz to see which laws may require you to add captions to video.
Video descriptions can be in the form a screenreader-accessible text document or an audio recording. The former is preferred for deaf-blind users, since it can be turned into braille.
The take-away: video description is required to make videos fully accessible to blind users according to WCAG 2.0 Level A standards.
The Letter of the Law
For your reference, here is the exact wording of the rules on making web video accessible.
- Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.
- (b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
1.2.1 Audio-only and Video-only (Prerecorded): For prerecorded audio-only and prerecorded video-only media, the following are true, except when the audio or video is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such:
- Prerecorded Audio-only: An alternative for time-based media is provided that presents equivalent information for prerecorded audio-only content.
- Prerecorded Video-only: Either an alternative for time-based media or an audio track is provided that presents equivalent information for prerecorded video-only content.
1.2.2 Captions (Prerecorded): Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.
1.2.3 Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded): An alternative for time-based media or audio description of theprerecorded video content is provided for synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.
For more information about web accessibility and closed captioning rules, visit our Accessibility Laws page.
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