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Digital accessibility is about ensuring that your content is accessible to everyone and ensuring that your information is received. After all, excluding the deaf and hard-of-hearing audience means leaving out 10 -15% of the global population. Those are some big numbers, and are not accounting for those who use screen readers, or are not native speakers in the language of your contents audio.
Unfortunately, making video content accessible is often pushed to the back burner and can be seen as an afterthought to most organizations and content creators. But if you’re here then that means you’re on the right track!
We’ve come up with 7 easy ways to ensure that your video content is accessible to most. But first…
In the US on October 8, 2010, Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) went into law. The role of CVAA was to update federal communications law to increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications. The CVAA updates accessibility laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s, so they could comply with 21st-century technologies, including new digital, broadband, and mobile innovations.
The European Union also didn’t leave people with disabilities behind and prepared The Web Accessibility Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/2102). The Directive obliges websites and apps of public sector bodies to meet specific technical accessibility standards. Fulfilling those requirements helps people with disabilities to have better access to websites and mobile apps of public services.
Also, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the organization behind Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has prepared Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, and a guide on how to make media accessible. It helps to figure out which accessibility aspects specific audio or video needs in order to meet accessibility requirements.
Of course, those laws and regulations don’t apply if you are a non-institutional content creator, but it always makes sense to make your video content accessible as much as possible. Creating accessible videos will influence reach and usability. Sadly, the accessibility of produced videos is often overlooked. On a positive note: accessibility doesn’t have to add significant time or cost, especially when considered from the beginning. Read our guide to find out how to easily incorporate accessibility features into your video content.
Making your video content accessible
When it comes to the accessibility of videos, adding subtitles and transcripts will benefit a much larger group. Just as an example, most videos on social media are watched without the audio on. provides people with disabilities with better access to websites and mobile apps of public services.
Here are the main factors you need to check to ensure your video content is accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing.
1. Principles of video accessibility
If you’re producing a video and you would like to fully adhere to the accessibility guidelines as much as possible, please consider the following points:
- Speaker visibility
Make sure the face of the speaker is visible and has good lighting. Some viewers with auditory disabilities use mouth reading to understand spoken language. When possible, consider this when preparing the setting of the video.
- Sign language
If you plan to include sign language, make sure the frames have enough room at the lower right side to add the sign language overlay without blocking important information.
- Colors and contrast
The text size should be large enough to be easily readable (and should stay on the page long enough to allow readers to follow it). Be conservative on the use of colors – the background should offer enough contrast and not compromise the visibility of the subtitles.
- No flashing content
Remember the Pokemon shock incident when over 12,000 people in Japan had photosensitive epileptic seizures due to a flashing visual effects in one episode. Flashing content can be dangerous for sensitive viewers so avoid anything that flashes more than 3x per second.
2. Give preference to an Accessible Media Player
Accessible media players have a user interface that works without a mouse, through speech interface, when the page is zoomed larger, and with screen readers. For example, media players need to:
- Provide keyboard support
- Make the keyboard focus indicator visible
- Provide clear labels
- Have sufficient contrast between colors for text, controls, and backgrounds
- Incorporate accessibility features like captioning and audio descriptions.
- Offer speech recognition so viewers can use voice commands to play, pause the video.
After picking a video player, do not allow autoplay mode. Users should be able to start and stop the video whenever they want.
3. Add captions to your video
Captions for videos created for digital accessibility should follow the WCAG standards. This is mandatory in cases such as public institutions in Europe.
In summary, captions are different than standard subtitles as they should include contextual information besides the dialogue (i.e. phone ringing, capital letters to represent someone screaming, etc.).
Here is a quick list to follow when creating captions for the deaf and hard of hearing:
- Timestamps for captions should match the sound;
- All the important information should be captured in the captions: descriptive sounds, lyrics of songs, etc.;
- Stay on the screen long enough to be read;
- Enough contrast between the color of the text and the background;
- No pauses without captions
- Speaker identification
4. Add transcripts to your video
Transcripts are a great way to allow users with hearing disabilities to follow video and audio content.
As is the case with captions, it is also a requirement for public institutions in Europe to adhere to digital accessibility guidelines.
You have different options to generate transcripts from your audio or video file:
- Transcribing your audio to text manually
- Have a company make your transcriptions
- Use an automated transcription service