Before publishing your videos on social media or online video platforms, it is a good practice to make your video content accessible to all potential viewers, whether impaired or not.
In this short guide about video accessibility we are talking about the importance of accessible videos, ways to make your videos accessible, and sources to consult before uploading videos on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok.
What is media accessibility?
We as creators should always be inclusive when it comes to our creative work. Inclusiveness supposes a high degree of accessibility. Whatever media you use to send your message to the world, make sure it’s accessible to all users.
Media accessibility represents those techniques that allow individuals with impaired senses or disabilities engage with the print, video or audio material. In other words, such individuals are not able to capture the information in its original form and they need assistance.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to boost your content’s accessibility levels due to new technology these days. Let’s take a look at what you as a video creator can do to make your videos accessible. We will also talk about why it’s an important thing to do.
Why is accessible video important?
Video accessibility is not only about being a good citizen. It’s actually an important aspect to add to your work if you want to increase your viewership and grow your audience.
According to the US Census from 2010, 19% of the US population or over 55 million people are classified as having a disability. The disability may come from birth, an underlying condition, or due to old age. This may mean that ⅕ of your potential audience may be visually impaired, blind, deaf, cognitively impaired, with ADHD or autism.
Whereas there is a lot of specialty media out there: like specialized video apps for children with ADHD, or media created for people with specific disabilities, it does not mean that video content released for the general population should be inaccessible to some.
A lot of countries have introduced laws that require all users, viewers, and customers to have comparable experiences with all government media, including video. In the US, for example, these rules are stipulated in Section 508 of a Federal law on media.
As such, a 508-compliant video should be accessible to the viewer so that they understand what’s happening in both video and audio portions of the video. This means that an accessible video or film will ensure that, no matter the viewers’ disability, they will understand the message.
Publishing videos online does not require to be compliant with these accessibility regulations. At the same time accessible videos have more potential to attract diverse audiences.
How to make your online video accessible?
If you work on videos that will go on Facebook, Tiktok, YouTube, or any other social platform, see what you can do to make your creations more accessible.
Use video captions
Captions can be either closed or open. Closed are those that are auto-generated or supplied as a separate text file. They can be switched on and off while watching the video. Open are those that you burn or hard-code into your videos. Viewers are not able to switch them off.
By adding closed or open captions to your video you will help viewers with hearing impairments. But it is not the only use case.
Captions also help viewers for whom the language of the video is not their mother tongue. They are helpful for viewers who are not able to control the noise around them while watching. They also help children who are learning to read.
There are some more useful situations where captions are nice to have.
If your video goes on social media sites like TikTok, Instagram, Linkedin, or Facebook, you should know that a lot of users watch videos without sound. 69% of users watch social videos with sound off in public places and 25% of users have the sound off while watching social videos in private. So captions are sometimes the only way to deliver your message to users on social media.
Facebook also reports that video ads with captions see a 12% increase in the view time.
The benefits of video captions are obvious. This accessibility technique helps its main purpose, but also contributes positively to a number of other use cases.
Video captions on social media sites
Fortunately, the social media and video hosting sites may offer auto-generated solutions for captions.
Facebook: You can auto-generate captions, write your own, or upload a SubRip (.srt) file.
YouTube: You can auto-generate captions, transcribe or upload them. Youtube has a caption editor that you can use to correct errors.
Instagram: You can use automatic closed captions in IGTV. Otherwise, it would be best to bake in captions into the video before uploading.
Twitter: You have the option to upload an .srt file with your video. Twitter also released automated captions for video in December 2021.
LinkedIn: You can upload an .srt file with your video.
Use video descriptions
If video captions represent the speech used in your video, video descriptions go beyond the dialogue from the video. Video descriptions help visually impaired viewers understand non-verbal cues.
There are a couple of methods to describe your video.
Descriptive audio is the audio narration about important non-verbal elements happening in your video. These audio descriptions are recorded and fitted between the dialogue scenes.
While alternate audio tracks are available on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, they need to be baked into videos used on social media. The social media sites don’t have the option to use different audio tracks on videos yet.
Descriptive transcripts is another way to make your online videos more accessible. They are detailed descriptions of everything happening in a video, both audio and video elements.
The transcripts are text files that live outside your video file, but they are not identical with video caption files. The idea behind the transcripts is for users or specialized apps to read these documents instead of users watching and listening to the video.
Video accessibility in action
Let’s see how it works on YouTube. Here are two videos where you will see captions and audio descriptions used. The topic is again about accessibility.
Social media accessibility tools
When you prepare a video for online consumption, check out these resources to stay informed about best accessibility practices for the platform.
Video creators spend days and weeks producing great content. Unfortunately, not all of this great content is accessible to every viewer. With the above accessibility techniques, you may need to spend a little more time on your project, but this time can definitely help open your content to new audiences.