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9 minute read
10 Mar 2023

Accessibility & Subtitling: How to make your content accessible to a wider audience

Video and audio content is becoming the norm all around the world. From movies and podcasts to Youtube videos and Instagram reels, most of us engage with digital content in some capacity almost every day. But we don’t only engage digitally for entertainment and enjoyment.

Whether you’re a business or an individual creating content, prioritizing accessibility is more
important than ever before. But what are the benefits of accessibility in digital mediums? And how can you reach a larger audience through tactics like subtitling?
Let’s take a step back and start with the basics.

Table of Contents

What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility means making your content accessible to everyone. The principle is that no one should be without access to digital content.

Digital mediums include anything you would typically consume on an electronic device. This can include mediums like video or audio. But it can also include static formats like digital articles and photos. 

Digital accessibility of your content can be improved in many different ways. Here are some common examples:

  • Include subtitles for video content
  • Provide transcriptions of audio content
  • Include alt-text for any images
  • Offer audio descriptions for videos
  • Use reasonably large text and high color contrast to improve readability
  • Share written content in screen reader friendly formats, like Word documents.

Learn more about digital accessibility

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Why is digital accessibility important?

With the world becoming increasingly digital, the lack of accessibility in the virtual environment has become more and more apparent. Without accessibility considerations, much of the population is unable to access content and critical information.

For example, without subtitles and transcriptions, audio formats are inaccessible to those who are deaf or hearing impaired. Meanwhile, missing alt text and audio descriptions for videos and photos make it difficult or impossible for blind folks to understand and consume the visual content.

Video content has become one of the biggest growing mediums over the last few years. Social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are pushing video content more than ever before. It’s no surprise, given that for most people, it’s an engaging way to consume information. In fact, video content has skyrocketed in other areas as well, including the rise of learn-on-demand platforms and even within formal education institutions.

A key way to improve accessibility in videos? Subtitles.

Subtitles and transcriptions

Transcriptions and subtitles are very similar – they’re both used to convert audio into text and improve accessibility. While many people tend to use the terms subtitle and transcript interchangeably, they aren’t quite the same.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between subtitles and transcriptions. Plus, some instances where you might choose to use one over the other.

What are subtitles?

Subtitles can be a powerful tool in making digital media accessible to people with disabilities. They are typically text that reflects the spoken words or dialogue and are superimposed directly onto the  video.

In most cases, you’ll find subtitles at the bottom of the screen to minimize any impact on the video itself. It’s also synced with the audio so viewers can follow along in real-time.

Create, format and add subtitles to your videos
Steb-by-step guide

How to create subtitles

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What are transcriptions?

Unlike subtitles, transcriptions are a written record of all spoken words in a piece of content. Another core difference is that transcriptions are provided as a document or text file that is separate from the content themselves. Transcripts are primarily used for audio-only content, where the full value of the content can be derived from only the text. However, there are cases where transcriptions are used for video as well.

Transcripts are useful for people to read along with the content when they are unable to hear the audio. Many individuals also use them as a supplement or an alternative to listening to the original audio format.

Transcribing from A to Z

The ultimate transcription guide

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5 reasons to subtitle

Accessibility is one of the top reasons you should be subtitling your videos. However, there are a wide range of benefits to including subtitles in your content.

5 reasons to subtitle:
1. reach a larger audience
2. increase engagement and watch rates
3. improve understanding of your content
4. show diversity and inclusion
5. regulatory complaince

1. Reach a larger audience

According to WHO, over 1.5 billion people around the world live with hearing loss. And this number only continues to grow. By choosing not to subtitle, you could be potentially missing out on a huge audience. For businesses, this can amount to a huge loss of revenue.

Subtitles can also impact your reach, outside the scope of accessibility. For example, subtitles make it possible for users to enjoy content in different languages. This opens up your content to thousands if not millions more people.

Captions and subtitles can also help improve your video’s visibility and searchability. Subtitles and transcriptions are often used in search engine optimization (SEO) to better understand your content, so it can be shown to the right audience.

2. Increase engagement and watch rates

Subtitles can play a major role in improving your content’s engagement rates.

This is particularly true when it comes to social media, where large numbers of users tend to watch videos with the audio off. In fact, as much as 69% of people say they prefer to watch videos with the sound off. If you don’t have subtitles, they likely won’t understand what’s happening and move on.

Subtitles can not only stop the scroll, but they can keep users engaged longer. Viewers are often more likely to finish a full video if there are subtitles provided.

3. Improve understanding of your content

For those who are hearing impaired, lack of subtitling means they will have great difficulty understanding what is happening in your content. While they can often garner some context through the video, it rarely paints the full picture. So subtitling is critical when it comes to being able to understand and enjoy the content.

But even among those who don’t experience hearing loss, captions and subtitles make it easier to absorb content. It can provide visual cues as viewers can read and listen at the same time.
Younger demographics in particular are more likely to consume content with subtitles – with numbers as high as 80% for those between the ages of 18-24. Within that group, only 10% identified as deaf or hearing impaired, indicating a huge shift in preference toward subtitles.

4. Show diversity and inclusion

Without subtitles, you’re effectively excluding a huge demographic. By making an effort to include captions and other accessibility tools, you’re sending a message that you want your content to be enjoyed by more than those who are fully able-bodied. 

As a result ,you’ll also attract an audience from more diverse backgrounds. This is especially helpful where your content generates discussion or discourse. Over time this wide range of feedback can even help you produce better video and audio content.

An effort to prioritize accessibility does not go unnoticed and it reflects on you as a creator or a brand. Even those who do not necessarily need additional accommodations will perceive your content as more welcoming and inclusive when compared to a brand that does not.

5. Regulatory compliance

Accessibility should be a priority for businesses no matter what. But the law is an important consideration. In many places like the EU or the US, there are regulations in place that make subtitling a requirement for many businesses and organizations.

By subtitling your content, you don’t need to worry. You can feel confident knowing that you’ve met any legal requirements.

The role of subtitles and transcripts in relation to digital accessibility

As video and audio become  a growing part of our lives, subtitles and transcripts are critical to improving digital accessibility.

They make it possible for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to engage and fully appreciate the content in similar ways to the rest of the population. We’re becoming more tech-driven as a society by the day. If creators and organzations don’t invest in accessibility, a huge portion of the world has the potential to be left behind.

The good news? Subtitles and transcripts are a relatively simple way to improve the accessibility of your content. There are a myriad of resources, like Amberscript, that make including them easier than ever before.

While including subtitles and transcripts is always preferable, there are many situations where it’s mandatory.

New legislation around digital accessibility

There are many benefits to improving digital accessibility through tactics like subtitling, captions, or transcriptions. Accessibility is also becoming more widely perceived as the standard for content. 

However, in many cases accessibility still falls by the wayside. The pace at which accessibility is being adopted has prompted many countries and regions to adopt laws and legislation around digital accessibility. 

These laws play an important role in providing access to digital services, content, and information.

book lot on black wooden shelf

Digital accessibility legislation in the European Union

The European Union (EU) is consistently a leader when it comes to adopting legislation related to new technology and accessibility. The Web Accessibility Directive (Directive (EU) 2017/2102) was adopted in October 2016 and the Directive on digital accessibility (Directive (EU) 2016/2102) was adopted in September of 2020.

This legislation made it mandatory for all organizations in public sectors within the EU to make all content formats accessible. This includes adding subtitles or captions to all videos and offering transcripts where content is audio-only. For public universities and higher education, this includes content like web lectures and educational videos.

There are also other requirements in the EU that are related to improving digital accessibility. For example, all websites and mobile apps need to be accessible from the outset. Meaning they can be usable and understandable by anyone with a disability – not just auditory but visual and other disabilities as well.

Digital accessibility legislation in the United States

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) came into effect in the 1990s. The ADA requires that businesses in the United States (US) – both public and private – make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. This includes those with hearing or visual impairments.

Given that the ADA was put into effect well ahead of the digital boom, it doesn’t explicitly outline any requirements for digital accessibility. However, it does require businesses to effectively communicate with individuals, including those with disabilities. Now that an increasingly large amount of that communication takes place digitally, this is commonly interpreted to extend to videos and digital content.

For most businesses, this means providing subtitles and transcripts where information is provided via video or audio formats.

There is other legislation that primarily applies to government entities or certain businesses. For example, the  Federal Communications Commission regulations and the Rehabilitation act require closed captioning for all TV programs and online content.

Even where it’s not legally required, it’s still best practice to keep digital accessibility top of mind. 

Fortunately, more and more tools are being developed to help make digital accessibility easier for individuals and businesses. 

How to use Amberscript to boost your digital accessibility

As we continue to evolve toward an increasingly digital environment. It is critical that technology and the content we produce keeps up with consumer demands for accessibility. It’s no longer enough for accessibility to be an afterthought.

Amberscript is a leading transcription and subtitling service that combines the best of artificial and human intelligence.

Here’s how Amberscript can boost your digital accessibility:

  • Quick turnaround: Don’t de-prioritize accessibility due to delays. By leveraging machine learning and AI, Amberscribe can provide transcripts and subtitles in as little as 5 minutes.
  • Top-tier accuracy: Equal access means providing subtitles that are accurate and match what’s on screen. Get subtitles with up to 100% accuracy with Amberscript’s human-made subtitles and transcriptions.
  • Easy-to-use formats: No matter what content you’re producing, Amberscript can provide file formats that works best for you. From text files to SRT, you’ll have subtitles that can be uploaded and synced to your content in just a few clicks.
  • Affordable accessibility: Accessible content is key to removing barriers and providing equal access to people from all walks of life. Amberscript can provide transcripts and subtitles for as little as $0.17 a minute.
  • Reach audiences around the world: Boost your reach by including subtitles in one of the 39 languages available through Amberscript.

Make the most out of your content by prioritizing digital accessibility. Start subtitling and transcribing your content with Amberscript today.

Frequently asked questions

  • Do you offer audio description and other accessibility services?

    Our focus is on speech-to-text solutions. We also have a vast network of people concerned with accessibility services, so please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions/queries.

  • How is the topic of Digital accessibility related to the EU legislation 2016/2102?

    On the 22nd of September 2016, the EU published a directive on digital accessibility regarding the websites of public institutions.

    The objectives included in the directive are to be implemented in each EU member state’s national law as of the 23rd of September 2018 and have come into effect. Public institutions are to conform to the European Norm (EN 301 549 V 2.1.2), which refers to a level “A” or level “AA” of the international standards of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1), as valid minimum requirements in digital accessibility.

    To learn more about this topic, read our blog about Digital accessibility and WCAG 2.1 standards.

  • What does Digital accessibility mean for me?

    Whether you are a public institution or not, it is always important to think about inclusivity in our society.
    We can all help to make sure that everyone is part of the digital revolution, which is making our lives easier every day. In order to help those with visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities, we can come up with solutions to help everyone enjoy the same content. Amberscript is providing software that provides such a solution: we convert audio/video files to text using our speech recognition software, running on an AI-driven engine. To find out more about our products, click here.

  • What is Digital accessibility?

    Digital accessibility is the ability of a website, mobile application or electronic document
    to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users
    who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities.

  • What is WCAG 2.1?

    WCAG stands for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. WCAG 2.1 is the latest version of these guidelines, which are intended to make the world’s digital environment more accessible for those with a visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disability.

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