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ADA Compliance for Video: A Comprehensive Guide

Video has become a highly effective means of communication strategies. This includes videos on social media pages, websites, YouTube, Vimeo, streaming sites, etc.

In fact, a Nogen Tech market research study on the application of video marketing in 2023 found that an astounding 91% of businesses use videos in their campaigns, and there’s no sign of that trend slowing down anytime soon.

What’s particularly interesting is the majority of these videos aren’t necessarily video ads you might typically expect. The reality is that most of the videos created by businesses are actually social media videos, explainer videos, presentation videos, and testimonial videos. In this way, companies can connect to their customers more directly and informally than through standard ads.

One of the most significant advantages of videos as a form of communication is that videos can be produced relatively cheaply and offer a considerable return on investment. Most marketers (42% to be exact) spend less than $500 on an average video. 18% spend between $501 and $1,000, and 25% spend between $1,001 and $5,000. Only 16% of all businesses spend over $5,000 to produce an average video.

To understand the return on investment, the above-mentioned study by Nogen Tech found that a majority of marketers evaluate the success of their videos through a combination of views, audience engagement, leads/clicks, brand awareness, retention, and only then bottom-line sales.

However, it’s critically important to keep in mind that it’s necessary to create compliant videos under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make your videos fully accessible to the widest possible audience.

So, the question is, what exactly are ADA-compliant videos?

What Is Accessibility?

The World Health Organization estimates that currently, more than 2.2 billion people worldwide have a near or distance vision impairment, while more than 1.5 billion people are affected by hearing loss in at least one ear. What’s more, it’s projected that nearly 2.5 billion people will have some degree of hearing loss by 2050.

That’s why the ADA exists to protect people with disabilities from discrimination when seeking employment, as well as when accessing goods and services, including in both physical spaces and online domains of nearly all businesses.

Creating ADA-compliant videos ensures that online videos are accessible to billions of people experiencing any kind of disability.

To be considered ADA-compliant videos, web content developers should follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a global standard for making digital content (including but not limited to videos, PDFs, email, etc.) accessible to people with disabilities. These guidelines require all digital content to be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

That generally means that online content should include captions and/or subtitles, video and audio descriptions, interactive elements, inclusive language, keyboard accessibility, player compatibility, improved colour contrast, and so forth.

Captions and Subtitles

Captions and subtitles provide a text version of the video’s audio content that is in sync to the video. They are a great way of improving your content’s accessibility by making it perceivable to people who are deaf or have hearing impairments.

However, they’re valuable for hearing-impaired viewers and users who find themselves in extremely loud (e.g., a bar or a crowded street) or extremely quiet environments (e.g., a library or a museum).

Captions and subtitles can also help your content be indexed by search engines such as Google, consequently helping improve its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and allowing potential customers to find your content more easily.

This is where Subly comes in handy, as it allows you to automatically add highly accurate subtitles or captions to video in over 30 languages and dialects in a matter of minutes or let professional transcribers create 99% accurate English subtitles and captions. You can also quickly and efficiently translate subtitles and captions in over 70 languages and edit them to make them more easily readable.

Audio and Video Descriptions

Audio and video descriptions go beyond subtitles and captions to provide information and context about a video's critical visual elements, for example, speaker name, non-verbal sounds (e.g., audience reactions), and/or things such as settings, scene changes, costumes, actions, etc.

They are primarily meant to provide additional information that can’t be understood from the audio for users with vision impairment.

Subly also offers an option to create audio and video transcription through automatic speech recognition. Subly's automatic speech recognition will analyze your audio content and transcribe it into text, subtitles, SRT, or VTT, saving you hours of content creation work. The inclusion of speaker recognition and non-verbal sounds will help your viewers easily identify the speaker alongside the dialogue, ensuring they can keep track of the dialogue with ease.

Keyboard Accessibility

Keyboard accessibility refers to providing options to make particular content controllable using keyboard commands rather than the mouse alone. This will help make your content operable for people with motor impairments who cannot use a mouse to activate or navigate a website, a video, etc.

What that means in practical terms is that viewers should be able to readily rely on pressing Space, Enter, Tab, Shift & Tab, and arrow (aka cursor movement) keys to play, stop, pause, navigate through various parts of a video, as well as control its volume.

Inclusive Language

As language continues to change and evolve, so does our awareness of using inclusive and respectful language for all audiences, including people with disabilities. That means language that refers to the person first and the disability second, language that emphasizes abilities rather than limitations, and language that emphasises the need for accessibility rather than the presence of a disability.

Here are some examples that can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to inclusive vs. non-inclusive language that you should be mindful of:

Inclusive Language:               

People with disabilities

Person who uses a communication device

Accessible parking

People without disabilities

Non-Inclusive Language

The disabled; Disabled people

Non-verbal person

Handicapped parking

Normal, healthy, able-bodied people

Inclusive language can make all the difference in how your target audience perceives your message.

Colour Contrast

People with impaired vision or colour blindness may experience increased sensitivity and physical pain regarding certain colours and shades of light.

Subly can also help you improve colour contrasts, ensuring that viewers with colour blindness can see and read the on-screen text and closed captions clearly against the background. It can also help you adjust font weight and size to improve the visibility of your text elements.

Adjusting your content while having accessibility in mind ultimately creates a more welcoming environment and a more pleasant experience for all users, whether those with or without disabilities.

Player Compatibility

When we talk about player compatibility, we’re simply referring to choosing a media player that supports all of the functions mentioned above, which allows all viewers to easily access and navigate videos. Simply put, an accessible media player should allow options to add and adjust various accessibility features.

There’s no doubt that YouTube is the most widely used video platform in the world, with more than 2.7 billion monthly active users according to the most recent 2023 statistics by Global Media Insight. However, YouTube videos aren’t fully accessible by default (for example, its automatic subtitles can often prove to be inaccurate or incomplete), which is why your YouTube videos may require the use of other tools such as Subly to turn them into fully ADA-compliant videos.

Making ADA compliant videos is not only necessary to ensure your content is easily accessed by the largest possible audience of potential customers; it’s also an ethical choice that contributes to transforming the web into an equal and inclusive space for all.

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