Some people have disabilities that can make accessing video challenging.
By using captions, transcripts and audio description you can help ensure you meet government regulations on web accessibility and that everyone is able to access your content.
And it’s not just people with disabilities who will benefit. Captions can help people watching a video in a noisy environment, transcripts can be quicker to scan rather than watching a full video, and people learning a new language may use captions and transcripts to support their learning.
- Is there important visual content that's not described/explained via audio?
- Will the video have text and visuals, such as illustrations or graphs, that's needed to understand the content?
- Is there music in the video?
- Will the video be embedded on a web page using a media player?
- Will you be linking to an external site or video player that's hosting the video?
- Create closed captions.
- Create a transcript.
1. Is there important visual content that's not described/explained via audio?
Visual-only content should be avoided. If it must be part of the video, then it should be explained via audio. The former could potentially be done via planning, the latter requires audio description.
In some cases, a video's informative information is all in the audio. For example, a 'talking heads' style video might simply feature people talking and no important visual-only information.
Are you still in the planning stage?
If your video is due to show something without verbal commentary or description, consider recording a contributor or the narrator explaining what's being shown. For example:
- A name may be shown on screen to introduce a speaker. Ensure that person introduces themselves and that audio is played at the same time as their name is displayed.
- Part of the video may show a graph going up. Plan to have someone explain what the graph is showing and use that audio at the same time as the graph is displayed.
We advise that when you're preparing for a lecture, doing a voiceover for a video, or commissioning a video, you plan to verbally describe anything that's visual only and informative. This will mean your video doesn't need to have an audio description.
Has the video already been produced or filmed with visual-only content, or is visual-only content unavoidable?
If visual-only content cannot be avoided in the video, you must produce a version that features audio description.
- Audio description is a separate narrative audio track that is required, in addition to the audio on the video.
- Audio description provides information about visual content such as actions, scene changes and on-screen text.
- It's easiest to have the video still whenever audio description is needed. The alternative is to fit audio description between existing pauses in speech, which can make it more challenging to produce.
- If you're commissioning a video, ask your supplier to produce audio description. If it's not done by the supplier, it will be difficult for you to add later if you don't have strong video editing and audio recording facilities/abilities.
You should upload the audio described version in the same way as the original (eg on YouTube or Microsoft Stream) and link to this version wherever the original is shown (eg on YouTube or via an embedded video player).
2. Will the video have text and visuals, such as illustrations or graphs, that's needed to understand the content?
There should be sufficient contrast between colours - aim for a 4.5:1 contrast ratio, which you can check via a checker such as the WebAIM contrast checker. For example, white on white has a 1:1 ratio and black on white has a 21:1 ratio.
This rule should be applied to any content that conveys information, like text or charts. For more details, see our guidance on colour contrast.
3. Is music part of the audio?
Some people find music affects their information processing and makes it too difficult for them to absorb what's being communicated.
Are you still in the planning stage?
If you feel you must use audio, please make sure it's quiet and/or doesn't overlap with spoken content.
Has the video already been produced or filmed?
Can you produce a low-music version? If you made the video perhaps you go back to the source files and remove or reduce the music. If it was produced by a third party, they should be able to send a version without the music or remove it when there's spoken content.
4. Will the video be embedded on a web page using a media player?
Check the video player is accessible. Some video players don’t support captions and others aren’t accessible for keyboard users.
The YouTube video player is typically good in terms of accessibility (to place a video on the University's YouTube fill out the YouTube video upload request form). For some, the Microsoft Stream and Mediasite (aka VideoLeeds) video players provide an accessible experience also. The Vimeo media player should also be accessible.
Other video players may not be accessible. If in doubt, ask the supplier/provider if their player is compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA. If it's not, consider using YouTube, Microsoft Stream, Mediasite, or Vimeo media players.
Ensure that you place a link to the video's transcript adjacent to the media player when you embed it onto the page.
5. Will you be linking to an external site that's hosting the video?
See step four for advice about ensuring the external site's video player is accessible.
Beyond the media player, if you're linking out to a University video that's shown on an external site, consider the accessibility of the site itself. It's likely someone will have trouble accessing the video via that site unless it's fully WCAG compliant.
Unless you're certain the other site is accessible, consider placing a version of that video on the University's YouTube (fill out the YouTube video upload request form), Microsoft Stream or VideoLeeds (Mediasite) and embedding the video or linking to it on the relevant platform.
If the video isn't a University-owned or controlled resource that is providing supplementary information and is not a key learning or administrative resource then you don't need to make it accessible. However, it is good practice to offer accessible resources and alternative formats where needed.
6. Create closed captions.
All videos require closed captions. These must relay verbal information and all important audio-only information, such as what something sounds like.
Closed captions are the type that aren't 'burnt in' on the video. Captions are different to subtitles, which typically only relay verbal audio information.
If you're commissioning a video, always ask the supplier to provide closed captions. They will likely do this by providing as SRT file (with the .SRT extension). This file contains the text of what’s being said in a video, along with the timing for those words and the order in which they appear. This can be uploaded to YouTube or other media players so users have the option of turning it on or off.
Note that automatic captions aren't considered accessible because they may contain errors. However, they can be used as a starting point that you edit and correct.
7. Create a transcript.
A transcript should be provided with all videos. These should contain everything in the closed captions and explain the visual-only information, along with who is speaking.
Ideally, this should be placed on a web page. However, providing this via a Word document may be suitable.
Link to the transcript from anywhere the video is embedded and/or adjacent to any links to external players or hosting services.
If you need to create a transcript from scratch, Word in Office 365 (free to all students and staff) now has a transcription feature that allows you to upload audio to a Word document. Word will then create a written document of the verbal information. You'll then need to add descriptions of other important audio and visual-only content. See Microsoft's guidance on transcribing your recordings.
Do you need to make something accessible even if you think disabled people won’t use it?
Yes, even if you’re not aware of any disabled students or staff using your content you still need to make materials accessible. Following accessibility guidelines improves the usability of websites, documents and systems for everyone. Making content accessible means students and staff will benefit from being able to engage with the information in more flexible ways.
If you’re unable to provide an alternative version it is important to make this clear wherever the content is presented/linked to or, in the case of education, in your module accessibility statement so that students or staff can seek appropriate advice or support if they need it.
Tip: You don't need to fix pre-recorded audio and video published before 23 September 2020. However, it's good practice to make audio and video accessible if you can, especially essential information used for teaching.
- Making audio and video media accessible (Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) W3C)
- Caption, transcripts and audio descriptions (WebAIM)
- Make your Stream videos accessible to people with disabilities (Microsoft)
- Captioning your Mediasite content
- Adding subtitles and captions - YouTube Help (google.com)
- Government regulations on web accessibility (GOV.UK)