Creating accessible video and audio content
Instructional media such as video and audio clips should be accessible. This helps to ensure that all students have the opportunity to interact with the content. There are a few steps you can follow to ensure your video or audio content is accessible for all.
Identify what important visual content will need to be described audibly (e.g. graphs, equations, images, etc.) for individuals with vision impairments.
Important on-screen text should also be described audibly for people with visual impairments; this includes names and affiliations of speakers.
If deciding on a color scheme, ensure the text / background color combinations meet minimum color contrast standards. (You can use the WebAIM contrast checker or a Color Contrast Analyzer for this.)
Advise the speaker or presenter of the accessible presentation recommendations listed in the following Production/Recording Tips section before you begin recording.
Creating a script with all spoken content in advance is strongly recommended. This will ensure the content has been fully covered and all images, equations, graphics etc. are properly described. A script can also help speed up the captioning process in post-production. The script will also allow you to ensure that you stay on topic and that the content is delivered at an appropriate level of complexity for your target audience.
Speakers should be introduced or state their name and title/affiliation audibly, the first time they speak.
Narrate any important visuals, such as graphs, equations, or images that need to be conveyed for the listener to fully understand the content.
Be specific when talking about visuals on the screen. If the speaker uses location references like “here” or “there”, they should also include a description of the item they are referencing.
Don’t say: “This part over here represents the slope of a line.”
Do say: “In this equation, "y equals mx plus b" represents the slope of a line."
Video captions provide a text equivalent to the spoken audio in real-time during videos, making them accessible to individuals with hearing disabilities. Captions can also help English language learners better understand your content and can be used by students as a learning tool for jargon and subject specific terminology in academic video content.
Captions come in two types:
- Closed captions, which can be toggled on or off by the user
- Open captions, which are always on and cannot be turned off
In general, closed captions are preferred as some people who prefer not to see captions may find them distracting. Note that the term subtitles technically means captions in a different language than what is spoken, but is often used interchangeably with the term captions.
Per our accessibility guidelines, captions are required for all instructional video content. Broadly, captioning videos can be done by the creator or by an external captioning service. The Office of Digital Learnings’ Instructional Design and Educational Technology group provides captioning services for instructional video content. For more about the captioning options available to faculty, see our captioning resources page.
Audio descriptions for video
Audio descriptions are supplemental audio tracks that provide important details about onscreen visual content, making it understandable for people with vision impairments. Audio descriptions typically occur during pauses in the audio dialog, music, or narration, and may be on the same or a separate track as the rest of the audio used for the video.
Similar to captions, there are different types of audio descriptions:
- Closed audio descriptions, which can be toggled on or off by users.
- Open audio descriptions, which are descriptions about visual content that are played automatically and cannot be turned off. Sometimes open audio descriptions are delivered as a separate version of a video that does not have audio descriptions.
- Built-in audio descriptions, which are part of the main audio track are similar to open audio descriptions, but they are created with the video, at the time of creation, and are essentially the narrator describing visual content on the screen during a presentation. A separate audio description track and/or button on the player are not needed for this type of audio description.
The Production/recording tips section describes an approach to create built-in descriptions where content on the screen is described with audio and the separate audio description tracks are not necessary. This should be considered a best practice because when doing so, everyone receives the same information and there will be less of a chance that sighted uses will misinterpret an image.
Examples of how to convey visual content audibly in the original audio include:
- If a graph or figure is shown, explain out loud what the graph is measuring and what the results are.
- Read or summarize information on the screen; Don’t tell the viewer that you will give them a moment to read something on the screen.
- Introduce any speakers or interviewees the first time they appear or speak. Do not rely solely on graphics to convey this information.
We have technology to provide closed audio descriptions and make them available via the media player within WebCampus. Doing so for large amounts of video could limit the number of other videos that could be captioned with our yearly captioning budgets, so built-in audio descriptions are preferred. We should rely on audio descriptions as a separate audio track in instances where there is a need (we DO want to provide them in these cases) and the important content is either not described with audio in the original footage, the video cannot be edited to include the audio descriptions, or a separate version with this detail cannot be created. An example of this situation might be a copyrighted video that you did not create, but have permission to use. If a student requires audio descriptions in order to enjoy an equitable educational experience, please request them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are adding text or graphics to your video, ensure that the color contrast for text meets minimum standards. To check contrast, use the Color Contrast Analyzer software (for images) or the WebAIM contrast checker web page (for hexadecimal color codes).
Additionally, make sure your video does not contain any rapidly blinking or strobing effects that could trigger seizures in individuals with photosensitive epilepsy.
Transcripts and summaries
Transcripts are a great resource for individuals with hearing or vision impairments. They are simply a text version of the content’s audio and can be easily read by a user or screen reader. Transcripts are required for all audio content and, optionally, they can be a nice addition for video. Per our accessibility policy, all video content must be captioned. Transcripts should not be used to replace captions for video content.
Office of Digital Learnings’ Instructional Design and Educational Technology group provides transcription for instructional audio content. Faculty can request transcripts by emailing email@example.com.
If your video has no audio or there is visual-only content that was not properly narrated, create a written summary of the content so that those with vision impairments can understand the content. When embedding the video in WebCampus, you can include the summary next to or before the video.