A Simple Guide to Making Your Videos Accessible

By UsableNet on Aug 4, 2021
Topics: Video Accessibility


Did you know the average person watches 16 hours of online video per week? In the last two years alone, this statistic has increased by 52%! Video is quickly becoming the content-of-choice for brand marketing and dominates websites across the world. However, many of these online videos neglect to include accessibility features for those with disabilities.

An Increase in ADA Video Lawsuits

Along with other ADA claims, 2021 has brought a slew of video accessibility lawsuits. Our Mid–Year Report found a notable trend in video-related claims. These lawsuits demand that all videos have closed captions and audio descriptions. As society transitions to a more digital world, we expect these lawsuits to continue increasing.

For more insight on the legal obligations and WCAG guidelines that apply to this form of media, read our blog on the best practices for video accessibility.

Captions, Transcripts, and Audio Descriptions for Accessible Videos

Luckily, whether you're preparing for a worldwide video campaign or filming a company e-card, anyone can make a video accessible! We've put together three tools to help ensure everyone can access your video content. The good news is that they are all simple with impactful, lasting benefits!

Why Caption Videos?

Though originally implemented as a way for people with deafness to experience audio dialogue, captions have exploded in popularity; people of all abilities take advantage of these helpful captions often. With the option to toggle this tool on and off, web users can personalize their caption use as preferred. There's also usually the option to choose caption languages, sizes, and sometimes even fonts. It's no surprise that captions have evolved into a mainstream tool.

In fact, 92% of U.S. consumers view mobile videos without volume, according to this study by Publicis Media and Verizon Media. In the same report, 80% of respondents said they were more likely to watch an entire video when captions are available. For marketers looking to increase their social media engagement and improve accessibility, captions are a great way to kill two birds with one stone!

Captions can be turned on or off and should be available in all languages. It can be helpful to include grammar indicators such as commas, periods, and question marks to inform viewers about relevant pauses or tones. When captioning a video, it's important to not just rely on free auto-captioning services such as voice-to-text. While helpful in the beginning, auto-generated captions nearly always need edits to properly reflect a speaker's words.

Captions shouldn't only be limited to dialogue. All pertinent information present on an audio track should be indicated within captions. This can include music playing, fireworks, humming, sirens, and anything else that helps communicate or enhance the content. Of course, all of this information should be presented in sync, meaning the words appear on–screen at the same time that one would hear them out loud.

Do Videos Need Transcripts?

Text transcripts are where captions are sourced from; they contain a video's entire written translation including all relevant dialogue and sounds. Transcripts can benefit people with a wide range of disabilities, as well as people. Not only that, but a transcipt provides a remarkable way to drive SEO.

Though transcripts and captions are very similar, there are some key differences. While captions are included within the video itself, transcripts are often available to download, view on a new page, or read below the video. Because they are not readily supplied as obviously as captions, it's important to clearly advertise when a transcript is available, so that interested individuals can quickly find and navigate through the text.

Effective transcripts are complete and attempt to provide the most equal experience one would have when watching a video. This means the transcript should capture all words present in captions, including additional noises. Transcripts can also be opportunities to include visual information presented in the video that can assist users in understanding content. Some examples include symbols, statistics, graphs, speaker names and roles, significant gestures, and any on-screen text.

What are Audio Descriptions for Video?

These are the least common of the three elements, but they can be the most helpful in certain instances. Specifically, those with visual challenges tend to benefit from audio descriptions.

An audio description is an enhanced version of a video that features live audio descriptions of key visual information. All of the original audio is included plus an added narration. With both of these elements, the person gets the full story.

Audio descriptions are the most helpful when there is activity occurring on the screen that isn’t reflected in the audio track. One example is an action-packed fight scene in a movie. Someone who is relying on the audio won't be able to follow along with the specific actions. In this case, an audio description can help.

To learn more about how to make sure all of your digital content is accessible and ADA compliant, read our Ultimate Guide to ADA Compliance. ada compliance




Founded in 2000, UsableNet created some of the first tools and platforms to make websites accessible and usable for all people. Starting out, we worked with government agencies as well as universities and corporations. Today, accessibility has become important to almost all companies. We provide accessibility solutions to Fortune 1000 companies, small and medium enterprises, government, and education organizations across industries including retail, travel, hospitality, food services, automotive, financial services, and healthcare.

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