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How to Make Your Video Content More Accessible

Taking the time to make your videos accessible to all viewers is a great way to increase views and engagement while making sure everyone in your target audience, regardless of ability, is able to access the information in your video. With nearly one-fifth (19%) of Americans identifying as having a disability, it’s worth it to make your videos accessible.

The results will be convenient for everyone – think captions on muted video – while also making your videos easier to find on YouTube, which is important when you consider more than 500 hours of video are uploaded every minute. Plus, in the United States, when making videos for federal government departments, it’s the law.

You know you need your videos to be accessible. Here’s how to do it.

What is accessible video?

An accessible video simply means that the information can be accessed by all audience members, including those with hearing, vision, mobility, or cognitive impairments. Accessible video generally has four components:

  • Captions
    • Similar to subtitles, but with additional audio information to add context to the video. This is especially helpful to deaf and hard-of-hearing users while also being convenient when watching videos on mute. 
  • Transcript
    • This is a text document that includes dialog and a description of the action.
  • Audio descriptions
    • A voiceover track describing visual elements is essential to understanding the video.
  • An accessible video player
    • These video players include keyboard controls for the video player and can accommodate external accessibility controls. 

To be more inclusive, a video may also include:

  • Contrasting colors
  • No flashing or strobing effects
  • Low background noise

It’s important to note the requirements are stricter if you’re creating videos for the federal government, in which case they must be 508-compliant.

Accessibility starts with filming

Starting each video with an inclusive mindset, in which all users and scenarios are considered throughout the project, has several advantages, including being good for the bottom line by increasing market reach

Use contrasting colors

High contrast colors are a useful tool. They can be used to direct attention, make text pop, or simply add visual interest. This applies mostly to graphics, but hey, if you want to get all Wes Anderson with your production design, go for it. For some users, like those with color blindness, high contrast color is essential to understanding the video’s content. The easiest way to pick contrasting colors is with a color wheel tool that shows hexadecimal values. You’ll need those values to make sure your chosen colors don’t unintentionally exclude anyone. How? By using this tool to check for readability by people with color blindness. 

When shooting or gathering video

Whether shooting your own footage or pulling from stock libraries, there are some things to keep in mind that will help to make your videos more accessible. 

  • Avoid seizure-inducing flashes
  • Ensure the speaker is visible
    • When someone begins speaking, make sure they’re facing the camera. This can assist people with hearing issues to match the caption to the speaker, especially when multiple people are on-screen. 
  • On-screen text 
    • Make sure all text in your video is easy to read. It should be large, high contrast, and remain on screen long enough to be read by the slowest reader. The same rules apply when using textual elements of a scene, like road signs or in-store signage, to help tell your story or illustrate a point.

When gathering audio

  • Capture high-quality audio 
    • Use a microphone and dedicated audio capture unit to capture the best possible audio. If your video shoot has a production sound mixer, they’ll know what to do. For the rest of us, using well-hidden lavalier microphones is a good way to get quality sound from the subject without using bulky microphones and stands. 
  • Minimize background noise 
    • High levels of background noise in your video can make it hard to understand the main audio, especially for people with hearing issues. Before the cameras roll, listen for potentially distracting background sounds and take action to minimize that noise. If background sound is unavoidable, use a directional microphone to capture your main audio. 
  • Speak clearly at a moderate pace
    • Unless you’re making a mumble rap video, make sure your subject speaks clearly and not too quickly. This is especially important when making how-to or instructional videos and when making presentations. 

Allow time for processing info

Include pauses in speech, especially in information-rich deliveries, to allow people to process what you said. This can improve comprehension and is helpful to people with cognitive disabilities, in addition to making for a more interesting delivery. 

No flashing 

You might be in love with it, but that disco-ball-and-strobe-light combo has to go. The lava lamp can stay, and so can anything else that doesn’t flicker or flash more than three times per second. Your video viewers will appreciate it, particularly those who suffer from migraines or seizures as a result of photosensitive disorders.

Accessibility continues in post-production

Once you’ve edited the footage, it’s time to add captions, audio descriptions, and a transcript. Save this step until the end so that you’re not making captions for footage that doesn’t make the final cut. Also, consider accessibility when mixing audio and color grading. 

Audio levels and background noise

When background or ambient sound is necessary to the video, be sure the speaking tracks are mixed louder than the background to be clearly heard. 

Captions

Captions are similar to subtitles but have some notable differences. Unlike subtitles, which are commonly used to translate speech to a different language, captions also contain other necessary sound information, such as music playing or a door closing. They can be either open, meaning always displayed on the screen, or closed, meaning you can turn the visibility on or off. 

A caption file is separate from a video file and will need to be added when you upload the video. The caption file is a simple text file with the captions you want displayed on the screen along with timecodes for when the caption should appear. You can either make this file yourself or outsource it.

If you’re taking the DIY approach, take advantage of machine learning and let YouTube do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Even if you don’t plan on hosting your video on YouTube, it’s worth it to upload the video and keep it set to private, just for the automated captioning. Keep in mind that it’s a robot, and an imperfect one at that, so you’ll need to review your caption file and likely make some changes. 

Facebook also offers automated captioning along with the option to upload your own caption file. 

Audio descriptions

In the way that captions help people with hearing impairments, audio descriptions are used by people with visual impairments. Also known as described video, this audio track narrates on-screen elements. The added audio is usually placed in the video’s silences. Pauses can be added to the video if needed. Again, there are both DIY and outsourcing options

What needs describing? When information is vital to understanding the message of the video and isn’t explained by the existing audio, it should have an audio description. This could be as simple as the name of a newly introduced subject whose name is only mentioned in the on-screen text, like in a documentary, to something more visually involved, like a baddie sneaking up on the hero during a climactic scene.  

Video transcript

A video transcript is a separate text document that, like a script, contains all the spoken audio in a video as well as information about the visuals, such as descriptions of action. And, like a script, it is a readable text file.

Transcripts are especially useful for educational or informational videos, where the viewer may need to study the material. In universities that offer videos of lectures, transcripts proved especially useful. One study found 94% of students found interactive transcripts useful. 

Transcripts can either be outsourced—a good option for saving time—or done in-house. Using an automated tool, like the speech-to-text tools in Google Docs, can speed up the process when making your own video transcript. 

Accessible video player

The video player displays your video online. When publishing to a site like YouTube, Facebook, or TikTok, you’re locked into their video player. While not entirely inaccessible, these sites may not meet some stricter accessibility criteria. 

To be considered accessible, a video player must allow for use without a mouse. It also must be able to work with a speech command interface and work well with screen readers. 

Autoplay is bad

Having a video automatically play when a page loads can be distracting to users. Just think of those autoplay video ads with loud audio that get you frantically searching for the mute button. Besides being annoying, autoplay videos can interfere with screen readers, potentially ruining the user experience. 

Your accessibility checklist

When publishing your video, run through this list to make sure you’ve included everything to make your video as inclusive and accessible as possible. You should be able to answer yes to each item:

  • Is the message conveyed clearly?
    • Can the text be easily to read?
    • Is speech easy to hear?
  • Are graphics presented with high contrast colors?
    • Have the graphics been tested for contrast?
  • Does the text stay on screen long enough?
  • Is the speaker easy to understand?
    • Is there a minimum of background noise
    • Does the speaker face the camera when talking
  • Does the video include captions? 
    • Are captions properly synced to the audio track?
  • Is there an audio description? You can skip this one if it’s a simple lecture or talking-head style video. 
  • Does a video transcript accompany the video file?
  • Are flashing and strobe effects eliminated or minimized?

If you need to make your video content more accessible, our team is here to help. Drop us a line at DreamItReel today!

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