Q&A: Accessible Video at Amazon

September 14, 2017 BY ELISA LEWIS
Updated: February 2, 2021


Amazon is no stranger to the need for – and the benefits of – accessible products. Many of Amazon’s employees have disabilities themselves. These individuals are directly involved with product design and development, and take part in internal beta testing. This first-hand experience provides invaluable feedback for Amazon in their endeavor to continue to create accessible products and services for all their users.

When it comes to video, Amazon video is over 10 years old. The service provides video to millions of customers all over the globe. Amazon offers four different video services: Prime Video, subscription on-demand services, rent or purchase on-demand services, and ad-supported videos, and is focused on making all of them accessible. Amazon had been increasing caption coverage in Amazon Video for quite awhile, and in January of 2015, they reached 100% captioned content for their Prime Video catalog.

Peter Korn, Accessibility Architect at Amazon Lab126, joined us for a webinar entitled, Accessible Video at Amazon. He shared with us his insight into accessibility at Amazon. This Q&A gives a glimpse into Peter’s presentation on how Amazon prioritizes accessibility and how they continue to do so in a robust and expanding video space.

How do you make the decisions that involve balancing design versus accessibility issues?

PETER KORN: We very much strive to ensure at least three-to-one contrast ratio on large text, and 4.5-to-one contrast ratio on smaller text. This is in line with WCAG 2.0 AA. We also strive for a three-to-one contrast ratio on important parts of images and icons.

What is Amazon’s biggest challenge when making content accessible, especially at scale?

PETER KORN: The largest challenge is simply getting the accessibility features from the studios. We have hundreds of thousands of titles at this point in our video collection. We look to studios to provide captions and to provide descriptions for us. The vast majority of titles come already captioned. Handling the popular [titles] that aren’t captioned ourselves is now something we do as standard business practice.
For audio description, we’ve just gotten started a little over a month ago, so it’s too soon to say what all the challenges will be. The main question, of course, is getting [description] from studios, where they have it.

How do you control the quality of audio description and captions?

PETER KORN: With captions, we have our own quality control system. We have rejected captions from a number of sources when they didn’t meet our quality bar. I’d say at this point, that’s fairly well understood, and I’m not aware of any substantial rejections at this point. With audio descriptions, again, it’s so new, it’s really hard to say what issues we might be having there.

We’ve been delighted by all of the audio descriptions and the quality of the audio descriptions that we have received for Amazon original titles and for the things we’ve gotten from studios. We haven’t heard any issues or complaints so far. There’s not a lot of folks doing audio descriptions, and the pioneers in the field have really set a very high bar, so I’m not aware of substantial complaints or quality issues with descriptions so far.

How does Amazon plan on expanding audio description with Amazon Video going forward?

PETER KORN: How do we plan to do it? We absolutely plan to do it. We’ve got quite a few descriptions in the pipeline as we’re working with studios to ramp them up. We are now just about at the place where new Amazon original titles are described at launch. Our most recent launch of a kid’s title is described at launch. That’s certainly our goal to have everything that we make fully described, and we’re building it into all of our contracts with studios, saying that if they have a description for a title, they need to give it to us the same time that they give us the title in the first place.


Watch the full webinar below to hear more from Peter Korn!


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