You may be aware of the importance of making your website accessible, so why not apply the same principles to videos you're producing?
Consider that users of a website may be operating in very different contexts than your own.
Accessibility involves making web content available to people with a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological. If you have a campaign video on your website and it doesn’t attempt to cater for these people, this is immediately a chunk of your possible audience lost. Will they properly understand what’s going on in your video if they can’t hear the dialogue or can’t see important visual information?
Try to think of all the disability groups that might want to view your content, and using the techniques below, you’ll be able to make your media accessible to as many people as possible.
How do you do this?
One of the main ways to make a video accessible is to use captioning. More and more videos are starting to contain subtitles, because the technology used to do it is becoming simpler. Video captioning ensures that people that are deaf or hard of hearing are able to watch a video and understand the content. Captioning should, ideally, be available for all published videos.
If you’re planning to upload your campaign video to YouTube (and this is probably wise, as this way your video will gain maximum exposure), then captioning is relatively simple. In March 2010, YouTubeannounced on their blog that they were releasing auto-captioning to all their users. This feature allows captions to be automatically generated when requested by the user. Before this, videos would have to be captioned by hand (i.e. typing the words as they are spoken) so this is naturally a great relief to many!
However, this auto-captioning is not always exact, depending on how clear your audio is, so you may need to download the caption file and make small edits to the subtitles, if necessary. Depending on the length of your video, this shouldn’t take too long, and is relatively simple.
The subtitles can also be translated into any one of fifty different languages, and this in itself increases accessibility to your video dramatically. Suddenly, the video can be viewed and understood by a much larger audience.
Audio description is less commonly used than captioning, but it is still vital for people that aren’t able to view your video. Video usually has both visual and audio information, and to understand the content, users need access to both these channels. Audio description on a video is basically added audio information explaining exactly what is happening in the scene.
Audio description usually needs to be provided by the company itself. It is recorded using a microphone. This can either be:
- Recorded separately – Audio description is saved in one or more audio files, and is then synchronised with the video as an additional audio track. Check to see if your video editor allows you to add another audio track, as some don’t.This is generally the preferred option, as it means that the audio description can be turned on and off at will. Many people would prefer not to have the action described to them as they view media, so this is very useful.
- Integrated into the soundtrack itself – As some editing software doesn’t allow you to add another audio track, the audio may need to be included in the original video audio. This is potentially a problem as it means that all viewers will be forced to listen to the audio description, as it isn’t possible to turn off if it is part of the original audio.
If a video is particularly long and complex, it might be wise to seek professional help for the audio description. However, this will naturally come at a price. This decision is yours to make.
It’s generally accepted that autoplay is not enabled. The user should be given the choice when to start playing audio or video, as it can interfere with assistive technologes which also read out the text content of the page.
This is similar to captioning, however a text alternative for any non-text content (including video) ensures that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language. If you have captioned your video, this text can be used in this case, but make sure you don’t substitute text files for captions and audio descriptions. They need to be separate, to ensure that the text alternative can be manipulated into other forms at will.
Making changes for the better
There are many ways that accessibility can be achieved, and the above are some of the main ideas to ensure that you don’t unfairly exclude possible audiences of your material.
It might be a good idea to have a research yourself, as it would be impossible to cover all the accessibility elements here. Below are some useful links for further reading, should you wish to understand more about this topic.
Try not to feel overwhelmed at all the accessibility possibilities. Even taking small steps towards making your media more accessible is a great start, and is better than simply doing nothing at all.