How to Become a Video Accessibility Hero
Updated: February 4, 2020
The key to becoming a successful video accessibility advocate is to understand three things: what makes a video accessible, the impact of video accessibility, and how to successfully integrate video accessibility with your organization’s processes.
What is Video Accessibility?
There is an incredible amount of video on the internet. People spend one-third of their time online watching videos. With the growth in popularity of online video, it’s no wonder that the push for video accessibility has grown in relevance and importance. The more accessible a video is, the more people it can reach.
So, how does one go about making their online videos accessible?
There are three main elements to an accessible video: captions, audio descriptions, and transcripts.
Captions are an accommodation for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. Captions display audio in text form directly on the screen of the video. Caption frames, or the little snippets of text that appear on the screen, are time-coded to match up with the audio. Captions include all dialogue between speakers and non-speech elements like speaker IDs, sound effects, and musical elements.
There are two types of captions: closed and open captions. Closed captions are a separate asset from the video, typically added as a sidecar file, and can be turned on and off by the user. Open captions are burned into the video and cannot be toggled on and off by the user. Not all online platforms allow for a sidecar caption file, which makes open captions ideal for social media videos.
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Audio description narrates the relevant visual information within a video. It’s an accessible feature for those who are blind or have low vision since it describes what is visually happening on-screen. A good audio description track will describe things like character movements, facial expressions, and other key visual information instrumental to the message or plot of the video.
Audio descriptions will vary depending on the type of content. For instance, an educational video would provide descriptions that help to convey the educational message. For a more theatrical production, such as a comedy skit recording, the audio description would likely convey more information about the actors’ body language and facial expressions to support the humorous nature of the video.
A transcript a plain text document that depicts audio in a visual format. It’s not time-coded, which means it’s not entirely accessible on it’s own.
Unlike a plain text transcript, an interactive transcript is a time-synchronized transcript that allows a user to search across the spoken audio of a video and play from any point in the video by clicking within the transcript. The interactive transcript is hooked up to the video player and provides an interactive experience for the viewer.
Interactive transcripts allow the viewer to click on a keyword and jump directly to that point in the video where the keyword is spoken. The interactive transcript is conducive to several things: improved user engagement, better comprehension, boosted SEO, and above all, greater video accessibility.
The Impact of Video Accessibility
It’s high time the world knows that the secret to creating better videos is to create accessible videos.
The top reason to provide video elements like captions, audio description, and transcripts is to make videos more accessible to those with disabilities. However, everyone can benefit from more accessibility. There are many reasons why accessible videos provide an end product that’s better for both the viewer and the producer.
Captions, audio description, and transcripts all improve user experience in many ways.
Captioned videos provide a viewing experience that supports audiences’ evolving behaviors.
Research shows that 92 percent of consumers are watching videos with the sound off for a myriad of reasons:
- Being in a quiet space
- Not having headphones on hand
Since viewers tend to watch videos without sound, the only guaranteed way to convey your message is to provide captioned videos. In this way, captioned videos help deliver a user experience that considers the end-users unique needs and preferences.
Interactive transcripts enable viewers to search for keywords within the transcript. Whichever words they search are then highlighted within the transcript. Viewers can also go directly to the times in the video where the keyword is spoken simply by clicking on the highlighted terms. The search and interactive qualities of interactive transcripts vastly enhance the user experience.
Audio description provides a lot of flexibility to view videos in eyes-free environments. People even use audio description to listen to their favorite shows in the car, similar to an audiobook.
Adding transcripts and captions to your videos is a proven strategy for improving SEO, views, engagement, and search rank.
Since video content is not text-based, Google can have a hard time properly ranking video content. By providing text-based alternatives to the video, your videos have a better chance of ranking higher. One study showed that videos with captions received 135% greater organic reach.
Transcripts and captions allow search engines to crawl everything that is said in your video, increasing not only your keyword density but also your keyword diversity. Because captions and transcripts improve SEO elements, they help your video to rank for a multitude of relevant terms, instead of just the prioritized terms in your video description, title, and tags.
Accessible videos are a requirement for many businesses and organizations under several U.S. accessibility laws. That means that your organization may be required to provide captions and audio description for all of your video content.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a broad anti-discrimination law that is meant to protect people with disabilities in the public sector. Both Title II and III of the ADA require auxiliary aids for people with disabilities.
Section 504 and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act also apply to video accessibility, requiring that video content created by federal and federally funded programs is accessible. Section 508 references explicitly standards from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), which include explicit requirements for captioning and audio description.
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) requires captions for online video that previously appeared on television with captions.
How to Implement Video Accessibility
Implementing video accessibility into your organization’s current process doesn’t happen overnight, not if you want it to work or last. You have to start somewhere, though, so why not start with these three steps?
- Build awareness
- Form a team
- Write a policy
One study showed that a lack of general awareness of accessibility was the number one reason why organizations are not doing video accessibility. Communication and conversation are essential when it comes to building awareness within your organization.
Try hosting a lunch n’ learn to discuss accessible best practices. Send out monthly newsletters focused on important accessibility information and tips. Invite coworkers to attend accessibility-centric events. These things are great ways to begin advocating for accessibility at your place of work and growing awareness around accessibility.
Form a Team
Team efforts often have more impact than individual efforts. There’s strength in numbers, which is why it’s vital to create a team that drives accessibility initiatives within your company.
As you conduct your awareness-building tactics, look for those who already have a connection to or knowledge of accessibility. People who are already on board the accessibility train are perfect candidates for an accessibility committee. You could also send out email invitations or post on your company’s bulletin boards to gauge interest.
Write a Policy
An accessibility policy is a tangible document that spells out your company’s stance on accessibility. Having a written policy will make it easier to centralize your accessibility strategy in the future. It also publicizes your organization’s (either internally or externally) views on accessibility and how you approach accessibility.
The components of an excellent accessibility policy include a summary statement, the policy scope, technical standards, procurement procedures, and more.
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