Inclusive Design Needs Company Buy-In

June 28, 2019 BY ELISA LEWIS
Updated: July 1, 2019

The African proverb “it takes a village” originally refers to raising a child, and how it truly takes a team of people to teach a child everything they need to know in life. If you’ve ever worked to implement accessibility or inclusive design, you know that this too takes a village.

In the webinar, the future of video player accessibility, we learned that at YouTube, company buy-in for accessible web design is essential. Google’s own mission statement explicitly aims to make all information “universally accessible.”

Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. – Google

Matthew Schweitz, Engineering Manager, Google/YouTube explained, “The organization has said that these are the priorities, so everything else will follow.” “In essence, it doesn’t really work this way. There’s always something that seems to trump accessibility in a large organization. Priorities don’t necessarily align in favor of accessibility.”

Empower the world to create, broadcast, and share. – YouTube

Making Accessibility Part of the Design Process at YouTube

So how does YouTube make accessibility a design priority?

By “thinking about accessibility as a dimension of overall product quality.”

Just as developers consider factors like UI polish and bug fixes, designing for optimal accessibility becomes essential for shipping a product. Framing accessibility that way has been very effective.

Through internal education and evangelism at YouTube, the team ensures that developers understand how accessibility plays into product quality so that it’s a design consideration from the beginning.

YouTube Captioning

YouTube offers accessibility features that greatly benefit deaf and hard of hearing individuals. YouTube’s priorities include both ensuring that the viewer experience is really great, as well as making sure that as many videos as possible are captioned.

One way that they’re addressing the viewer experience, is through YouTube’s customization features, which allow users to select when they want captions to show up and how they should appear on-screen. YouTube offers three main methods for adding captions to video content.

YouTube video thumbnail. Arrow points to the cc button.

Caption File Uploaded by Creator

YouTubers can use Creator Tools to upload a caption file that was created personally or by a professional video transcription and captioning service. Automatically generated captions are only 70% accurate, whereas 3Play Media’s captions average 99.6% accuracy (with a guaranteed 99% accuracy on the first round.)

Auto-generated Captions


YouTube offers auto-generated captions on all videos by default. These are created using ASR, or Automatic Speech Recognition software. As YouTube has admitted, auto-generated captions are far from perfect. With a 70% accuracy rate, it gets about 1 in 3 words wrong. Auto-captions are the most scalable solution for captioning video, although they are the least accurate and therefore least useful to the end user.

Crowdsourced Fan Captions

In addition to accessibility, there are SEO benefits of captioning. With more than 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube a minute, it’s hard to keep up with making sure all of the content is captioned. For those YouTubers who fail to add their own captions to their videos, there are YouTube fan captions. YouTube’s crowdsourced caption tool lets viewers add or edit captions voluntarily. They can correct spelling errors, add punctuation, and include speaker IDs. Fans can also add subtitles in other languages, making your videos accessible to a global audience. The caption files are then submitted to the channel manager for approval. This is not only a great feature for adding captions to uncaptioned videos, but for editing those less than accurate auto-captions, as well.

Fan Subtitles. Quantity: coverage, languages per vido. Quality: fix errors, replace auto-captions. Challenges: quality control.

Learn more about YouTube’s crowdsourced captioning and subtitling tool.

The Future of YouTube Accessibility

YouTube has implemented some improvements to address blind and low vision viewers, such as implementing tab indexes, aira-owns, and labels, to help blind viewers navigate and operate the video player. Additionally, YouTube allows users to skip ads with a keyboard or screen readers.

Looking ahead, there are plans for continued improvement in the future of accessible and inclusive design innovations at YouTube including audio description.

Learn how to get accurate captions and subtitles delivered quickly and directly to your YouTube videos with 3Play Media’s YouTube captioning integration.

Learn more about 3Play Media's YouTube Integration and start captioning today.

This post was originally published by Emily Griffon on April 29, 2015 and has since been updated for accuracy and freshness.

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