Best Practices for Accessible Instructional Videos

Instructional videos are a common and useful way to dispense knowledge to university students, online course-takers, and learners of all kinds. But many elements of traditional lecture capture result in videos that are inaccessible to some students with disabilities.

This webinar will outline a step-by-step process which will help ensure both effective recording techniques and accessibility for students. Main themes of the presentation will surround planning and technical basics like longevity, lighting, audio, and the need for practice.

Simple ways to include accessibility features like video captions, transcript, and audio description will also be covered. Finally, participants will be instructed on ways to effectively share instructional videos, using free sites and with examples of instructional video at Texas Tech.

This presentation will cover:

  • Recording objectives
  • Proper equipment to use
  • Planning and technical basics
  • Easily adding captions and transcripts
  • Audio description
  • Universal design for learning (UDL)
  • Free resources for effectively sharing your videos
  • Examples of accessible instructional videos at Texas Tech


Dr. Jackie Luft
Online Accessibility Specialist | Texas Tech University

Ian Wilkinson
Section Manager, Academic Facilities & Services | Texas Tech University

Patrick Loftus (Moderator)
Marketing Assistant | 3Play Media


Best Practices for Instructional Videos (Word Doc)

Webinar Q&A: Best Practices for Accessible Instructional Videos

When it comes to creating instructional videos, Jackie Luft, Online Accessibility Specialist, and Ian Wilkinson, Section Manager for Academic Facilities and Services, have mastered the art of creating accessible content at Texas Tech University.

There are many techniques you can implement to create better instructional videos. Read the following Q and A to get the scoop on how you can improve your videos.

How do you get support to build out a plan for making course videos accessible?

JACKIE LUFT: We provide trainings. We have a great instructional design team that always includes accessibilities. We have a grant process at Texas Tech. If you’re building an online class, you can get money to make that class online. And when you go through that grant process, accessibility is a huge part of that.

I think it’s a slow and gradual process. In my position, as the accessibility specialist, you start off slow, and then you teach one person, and then you teach another person. And then they invite you to your department, and then another department hears about it.

It’s a lot of training and awareness. I think that a lot of people just are not aware.

I don’t have a script that says this is what I did first. This is what we do second. This is what we do third. It’s a lot of training and awareness. I think that a lot of people just are not aware. I’ll do a training, and the most often feedback I get is, oh, I had no idea.

How did you get faculty to buy into taking these accessibility initiatives?

JACKIE LUFT: Well, I’ll be honest, our provost sent out an email that said all videos will be captioned by fall of 2018. If you’re using a video, it has to be captioned. And so we’re fortunate that way. We mentioned University of Washington. Their DO-IT Center has a list of legal cases. And I have used that website a ton. And I’ll have an instructor who says, well, I want to know exactly why I have to do this or whatever.

I can go to that website and find the legal case that that instructor’s talking about and say, hey, look at the University of Cincinnati and University of Miami and university of this and this and Netflix. All these have lawsuits that have happened.

It doesn’t come overnight. We were very, very fortunate that we have that mandate from administration. And University of Colorado will tell you, we wanted to have accessibility for a couple of years. And it wasn’t until the Feds came in and we had a lawsuit that all of a sudden, five different full-time positions were hired. All this money was allocated. And all of a sudden, everything’s accessible.

We’re very fortunate at Texas Tech that our administration has been more proactive. But it’s a process. You’ve got to start off little and just add a little bit more.

I also tell instructors that. I’ll have instructors who say, I don’t know how to caption all of this. Or I don’t know how to make everything in my course accessible. And I’ll say, start with one thing. Everybody uses a syllabus. Let’s make that accessible. And then when that’s done, you’ll know how to make all of your documents accessible.

Or I’ll have an instructor who will come to me and say, I have a student with vision disabilities. And my PDFs aren’t recognizable with optical character recognition. I say, well, let’s start with one and see what we can do. So, start off small.

What does Texas Tech use as an accessible video player?

IAN WILKERSON: We use our Mediasite, which is made by Sonic Foundry. Pretty much most video platforms are going to have some accommodation for captions and accessibility.

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With Mediasite, we were able to get a VPAT. So that’s something important for our compliance folks to have on file. It’s really easy to just drop in an STL or an SMI caption file if you’ve created one manually. And of course, we’ve got the integrated service with 3Play so that we can literally just click a button and have it go off to 3Play’s folks who do the captioning. And not only does it create the caption, we also get a transcript and a caption file, but the caption files are actually inserted into the presentation that we click the button to send it off to.

So really, our only responsibility is paying for that caption and verifying that it’s accurate, which everything done through 3Play that I’ve seen was quite accurate.

What’s better to use, transcripts or captions?

JACKIE LUFT: Federal law will tell you, you have to have captions word by word at the same time. But if you have just a talking head or you have just an audio, then transcripts are fine. But anytime there’s any kind of visual that represents or that brings content to what is being said, then you have to have captions.

Are there any resources you recommend to learn about streaming basics?

IAN WILKERSON: A white paper by Jan Ozer. And if you go to a, he’s got it for free download there.

It’s a really great primer on the basics of bit rate and frame rate and how streaming video works. And that may sound very dry and technical to somebody who’s teaching like plant science, but it’s good to have that two or three-page overview because then you understand oh, that’s why I shouldn’t wear that zig-zag pattern blazer during my video. That might be a great gimmick in the classroom or whatever. But on video, it can actually cause distraction, at least pedagogically, if not for technical reasons. So just look for Jan Ozer in the Streaming Learning Center.

Do you have any advice for people with strong accents who want to make videos?

IAN WILKERSON: I think this is where practice comes in. We have accents of all nationalities and regions here at Texas Tech. We’ve got people from Europe, from Asia, from the deep South, here in Texas, from Latin America. I think the main thing is for the presenters to be mindful of how their presentation comes across. And the best way to become mindful of how it’s going to turn out is to do some practice recordings and practice the delivery of the material.

Practice your delivery, evaluate your test recordings, and adjust from there.

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We have a lot of people who talk really slowly, which is actually easier to understand. But I think this would go back to a practice situation, where you just practice your delivery, evaluate your test recordings, and adjust from there.

JACKIE LUFT: Yes, and then I would also say that if you have an instructor who you know is going to be doing a bunch of videos, get one video, and get it captioned. And maybe it’ll come back that it was a little bit difficult. So they have to pay a little bit more.

I know I had one instructor who we captioned a class, and then she wanted another closed caption. And she said, I’m going to redo the audio because the audio was so bad for the first class. And I think she got a new microphone, and the second class was much better.

What do you recommend for faculty who prefer not to be on camera?

JACKIE LUFT: You don’t have to be on camera. I just do slides. As far as audio, I frown upon it greatly because studies have shown it’s not as effective, but there is software that you can put in text, and it does talk for you. Find someone who has a great voice.