You’ve created a video. It looks great. It sounds great. It’s done, right?
Because for people who are blind or visually impaired, a great-looking video is likely useless if they can’t see what’s happening on the screen. And the same is true for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and cannot hear the voiceover.
Videos and visuals allow us to share knowledge and information in incredibly effective and engaging ways. But when we fail to make our visuals and videos accessible to people with disabilities, we’re leaving a significant portion of the population behind.
Here are some numbers:
- Approximately 1 million people in the U.S. are legally blind.
- Another 3.2 million people have a visual impairment or are considered low-vision.
- Around 15 percent of American adults report some trouble hearing.
- Approximately 18 percent of U.S. adults have “speech-frequency” hearing loss in both ears.
And that’s just in the U.S. Globally, about 285 million people have some form of visual impairment and of those, about 39 million are legally blind. More than 460 million people around the world have disabling hearing loss.
So you can see that when you fail to make your videos accessible, many people will have trouble getting the information you want them to have.
They are your coworkers and colleagues. They are your customers. They’re not just statistics, they’re real people.
And there’s a financial risk, as well. In 2018 alone, there were more than 2,200 accessibility-related lawsuits filed—that’s a 181 percent increase over the previous year.
So you can see that accessibility is important, but how do you ensure your videos are accessible to as many people as possible? Luckily, it’s much easier than you might think.
How to Make Videos Accessible
Just like there’s no one kind of disability that might make it difficult for people to access the information in your video, there’s no one way to address video accessibility. But here are the essentials:
Adding captions to your videos is one of the easiest and best ways to ensure that anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing can get the most out of your videos.
Captions convey all dialogue and/or narration, plus any other audio effects that may be present in a video.
This includes when (and what type of) music is playing and any background noises such as loud crashes, cars honking, or dogs barking that may be integral to understanding what’s happening on the screen. In fact, to meet accessibility standards, captions must include those elements.
Some video editing software applications offer automatic captioning options, and there are audio editing apps that can transcribe your audio and generate captions. There are also many services that will caption your videos for a fee.
But for videos that will have just narration, one of the easiest ways to create captions is to write a script and then use that script to generate a captions file for your video editing software.
Like captions, a video transcript provides a written version of the narration and/or dialogue in your video, as well as a description of any important actions or actions on the screen. This makes transcripts useful for people who are blind and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
However, whereas captions play on the screen in real time as your viewers watch the video, a transcript typically isconsumed separately from the video. Rather than providing assistance as the video is watched, a transcript is more of an alternative way to consume the video’s content.
Also like captions, there are a number of services that can transcribe your videos, and many of those services also willprovide captions.
For people who are blind or who may otherwise have difficulty seeing your video, audio description is a narration added to the soundtrack that describes important visual details that sighted people take for granted and are essential for comprehension. Audio description details typically are added during existing pauses in dialogue or narration.
Many cities have nonprofit services that will create audio descriptions for your videos, often at low or no cost.
Other Video Accessibility Best Practices
In addition to the accessibility options above, there are a number of ways you can help ensure video accessibility, including:
- Use colors thoughtfully and with good contrast.
- Any text on-screen should be large enough to read.
- Avoid flashing content to help prevent seizures.
- Use a Web-appropriate video format such as MP4.
Ensuring your content is accessible isn’t just financially or legally prudent—it’s the right thing to do. Just like brick-and-mortar stores or restaurants have ramps for wheelchairs and other accommodations for people with mobility issues, your digital content should be accessible to those who may need to consume it with the help of assistive technologies or in alternative ways. It’s a relatively easy way to ensure that everyone can get the information they need when they need it.