Accessibility Terms Defined
Updated: March 16, 2021
What does it mean to be accessible? What’s the difference between closed captions and subtitles – is there even a difference? If a friend or colleague asks you for a transcription definition, what should you say?
All of these questions will soon be answered. Below, we define everything from “keyboard accessibility” to accessibility-related organizations and laws. It’s important to have a solid grasp on accessibility and how it may apply to you, and it starts by understanding the basics.
Transcription is the process in which speech or audio is converted into a written document. The two main transcription practices are verbatim and clean read.
A transcript is the output of the transcription process, typically in the form of a document. Transcript formats include HTML, Word (.doc), Text (.txt), and PDF (.pdf) files.
Closed Captioning Definition
Closed captioning, or just captioning, is a process in which audio is transcribed into text. The text is then divided into caption frames and synchronized within the video to match the audio.
Closed Captions Definition
Closed captions are the output of the captioning process, and are typically located on the bottom of a video screen as an overlay. They are sections of time-coded text, which reflect the audio of a video to include both spoken words and non-verbal sounds. Captions are great for d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing individuals since each caption frame communicates all audio elements, including speaker IDs and sound effects.
Subtitles are synchronized with media so that the text displays at the same time words are spoken. Non-speech elements are not typically included in subtitles, and are mostly intended for a viewer who may not understand the spoken language. If English is your primary language and if you’ve ever watched a French film, the English translations displayed at the bottom of the screen are subtitles.
Audio Description Definition
Audio Description describes relevant and key visual information to viewers who can’t see the screen. It is particularly useful for blind or low vision individuals, but can also be helpful to those who are unable to look at the screen at all times. Play this Frozen trailer with audio description to experience it for yourself!
Interactive Transcript Definition
Each word of an interactive transcript behaves like an individual link that, when clicked on, leads directly to the exact point in the video when it’s spoken. Because of this feature, they are also known as time-synchronized transcripts. Interactive transcripts create an alternative way for people to interact with content, allowing users to easily search a transcript for key words and topics.
Accessible Document Definition
Accessible documents are readable by individuals with disabilities. There are several key criteria to follow when creating online content in order to make it accessible.
Alt Text Definition
Alt text, or alternative text, is located within an HTML code to describe the appearance or function of an image on any given web page. The purpose of alt text is to describe the image to visitors unable to see key visuals, such as blind or low vision individuals. Alt text is also known as “alt attributes” and “alt descriptions.”
Keyboard Accessibility Definition
Those who are blind or low vision, or individuals with motor disabilities may use a keyboard to navigate web pages. In order to be considered truly keyboard accessible, all content on a web page must be accessible by means of a keyboard alone.
Screen Reader Definition
A screen reader is a technology that converts digital text into synthesized speech. It allows the user to hear content and navigate through a keyboard, which directly relates to keyboard accessibility. Those who are blind or low vision, or who have a cognitive or learning disability may use a screen reader.
What Does it Mean to be Accessible?
In order for something to be accessible, it must offer an equivalent experience to everyone including those with a disability. This can refer to physical locations, but in the context of online accessibility it refers to a disabled user’s access to electronic information. The content and design must provide the most convenient and all-encompassing experience possible to prevent any level of exclusion.
What is A11Y?
A11Y is another term for accessibility, called a “numeronym”, and depicts that there are 11 letters between the “a” and the “y” in accessibility. The term is associated with striving for accessibility for all, and to be an ally to those within the disabled community.
What is Universal Design?
Universal Design is “the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, or disability.” When creating web pages or content with universal design in mind, there are 7 main principles to follow.
What is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community working together to develop web standards to lead the web to its full potential, for everyone.
What is WCAG 2.0?
The WCAG, or web content accessibility guidelines, were developed by W3C. Within the WCAG is a set of guidelines for making digital content accessible for all, including those with any disability.The most recent update is the WCAG 2.1, however section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires compliance with WCAG 2.0.
What is the Rehabilitation Act?
Enacted in 1973, the Rehabilitation Act is a “federal anti-discrimination law that implicates federal and federally-funded programs in their treatment of individuals with disabilities.” At first, it focused on equal employment practices, reasonable accommodations, and federally subsidized programs, but when section 508 was signed into law in 1998, it broadened its gaze to cover equal access to electronic and information technology.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, was enacted in 1990. It is regarded as a broad anti-discrimination law for individuals with disabilities. Those affected by this law include museums, universities, theaters, hospitals, and more. Recently, however, its been debated whether or not online services or products that are publicly available also fall under this law. In 2010, the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) vs. Netflix was the first time the ADA was interpreted to apply to an online-only business.
What is the FCC?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications. They set communications standards for television, radio, and internet, including a strict set of quality standards for closed captioning.
What is the CVAA?
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) was signed in 2010 and is enforced by the FCC. This act ensures that emerging technologies and communications are accessible to those with disabilities. Title I of the CVAA refers to communications access, whereas Title II refers to video programming.
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