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The Essential Video Accessibility Guide

According to the estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 1.3 billion people in the world today experiencing significant disability, which equates to about 16% of the entire global population (or 1 in 6 people).

Unfortunately, people with disabilities continue to face many societal challenges including stigma, discrimination, inequities in the health system, as well as exclusion from education and employment.

Web accessibility is another one of those challenges. A 2023 report on the accessibility of the top one million home pages determined that only 3.7% of them provided full and equal access to users with disabilities.

What Exactly Is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to the practice of creating options and pathways for people with physical, sensory, cognitive, and/or other disabilities to interact with and access websites on the World Wide Web without any barriers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability and guarantees that people with disabilities have fair and equal access to businesses that fall under “public accommodations” such as retail stores, schools, banks, etc. However, ADA doesn’t specifically address ways to make web content accessible.

Instead, content creators should follow the recommendations set by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which represent the golden international standard for web accessibility.

There are four major principles of web accessibility that content creators should adhere to - web content should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. In other words:

  1. Web content should be accurately seen and read by all users
  2. Web content should be responsive and easy to navigate by all users
  3. Web content should use language that is clear, easy to understand and be interpreted by all users
  4. Web content should be compatible with assistive technology tools

There are three levels of WCAG conformance: A, AA, and AAA where A is the minimum and AAA the highest conformance level. Typically, WCAG Level AA is the one most commonly referenced in global accessibility rules and regulations.

Why Is Web Accessibility Important?

Web accessibility creates a more accommodating and customer-friendly environment, providing more flexible options for all users, regardless of ability. An improved and more intuitive user experience, in turn, leads to higher customer satisfaction for everyone.

Accessible content can also enhance your brand, improve your business reputation, and extend your market reach, opening up your products and services to more potential customers than ever before.

Forbes estimates that people with disabilities, along with their families and close friends, have an annual disposable income of $6.9 trillion across the globe (with $544 billion in the U.S. alone). Therefore, tapping into that market can prove to be extremely profitable, justifying the cost of investment required to create accessible content.  

In addition, small businesses with up to 30 full-time employees and total revenues of up to $1 million a year can also qualify for tax benefits for making a business accessible to workers and customers with disabilities.

Web accessibility can also dramatically increase your overall web traffic. In particular, accessibility functions like captions, transcripts and alternative text get automatically indexed by search engines, which helps improve a web page’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

In one of the business accessibility case studies, a British financial services and asset management company named Legal & General Group built a new site with accessibility in mind, increasing its search engine traffic by 50%, reducing its maintenance costs by 66%, and receiving a full return on their investment within a year.

Web accessibility has also helped drive innovation for the biggest companies in the world, such as Apple, Google, and Barclays. Their innovations - including touch screens, voice control, contrast minimums, auto-complete, etc. - were created to improve the user experience for people with disabilities, but have since become widely adopted by all users.

Finally, web accessibility can minimize the legal risks of ADA and WCAG compliance, as latest data shows that website accessibility lawsuits have continued to rise, reaching record levels in 2023. Most of those 2023 lawsuits were filed against businesses earning under $25 million in revenue, proving how important web accessibility has become, regardless of the size of a company.

How to Make Video Content Accessible

In recent years, video marketing has become both highly affordable but also highly effective means of marketing. According to a market research study by Nogen Tech, video marketing usage has been on the rise.

In 2023, 91% of businesses have used video marketing as a tool, connecting to their customers more directly and informally through social media videos, explainer videos, presentation videos, and testimonial videos rather than through old-fashioned ads.

With the cost of an average video for the majority of those businesses not exceeding $500, there’s plenty of room for a return on investment not only through bottom line sales, but also  audience engagement, leads/clicks, and brand awareness.

In order to make video-only and audio-only content accessible to all users, it’s necessary to provide the following elements:

Captions

WCAG guidelines require the inclusion of captions for pre-recorded and live video content.

Captions offer a synchronized text version of speech content in a video. At times, captions may also require the inclusion of non-speech content when necessary for understanding the context of the video, such as speaker names, music, sound effects, and relevant non-verbal sounds (e.g., “Donna screams”).

Captions are important to users who are deaf or hard of hearing, users with cognitive disabilities who may have difficulty processing auditory information, users who are in loud or quiet environments and can’t listen to or clearly hear the audio, users who speak English as a second language, and many others.

Transcripts

Transcripts offer similar functions and benefits as captions, with some major differences. They are not synchronized to the video content, they are only required by WCAG for pre-recorded content, and they can typically be found below the video (e.g., in the video description field) or on another linked page. Transcripts may also include some important actions necessary for the full understanding of video content, such as “Shelly kisses Dale,” “Anna exits the room,” etc.  

Audio-only content such as a podcast requires only the creation of transcripts, but not captions. The great thing about captions and transcripts is that not only do they improve SEO, they can also be repurposed in various ways, including translation to different languages and conversion to Braille.

Audio Descriptions

Audio descriptions are verbal depictions of key visual elements in a piece of pre-recorded media that can provide an immersive viewing experience for people who are blind, have low vision and other visual impairments. They are played during silent pauses between lines of dialogue, important sound effects, song lyrics, etc.

In addition, audio descriptions are useful for users with cognitive disabilities who may have difficulty interpreting what is happening visually, and for users with autism by helping them understand and recognize certain emotional and social cues in actions and facial expressions. They can also help children improve their language skills, and enhance content comprehension for people who are studying a foreign language.

Colour Contrasts

Another important element of web accessibility is the creation of sufficient colour contrasts between text and its background. That text includes captions, on-screen text, narrative titles, contact and subscription information, etc. Without sufficient contrasts, that text can become illegible to users with colour blindness, low vision, and other vision impairments.

WCAG guidelines require a colour contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for text under 18 pt, and 3:1 for text larger than 18 pt or bold text of 14 pt and more. They also require that no important information or meaning is communicated through colour alone. All users should be able to understand web content even if there are no colours included (like in a black and white video).

Text colour contrast by Cornell University

Keyboard Accessibility & Ease of Navigation

All website functionality should be operable via keyboard alone so that people with limited mobility or motor disabilities don’t have to rely on a mouse for navigation.

Users should also be able to pause or stop auto-playing content, adjust volume, turn off or change single-key shortcuts, as well as view content correctly in any screen size and either screen orientation.  

No Seizure-Inducing Content

Avoid creating content that can potentially induce seizures, such as fast strobing lights. Content warnings are often missed by the users so they may not be sufficient to prevent causing seizures for some users.

WCAG guidelines for Conformance Level A advise that web pages avoid any content that flashes more than three times per second.

Suppose you need assistance in fulfilling WCAG compliance requirements. In that case, Subly can help you create highly accurate subtitles or captions in over 30 languages and dialects, translate them in over 70 languages, and provide you with transcriptions, audio descriptions, as well as improved colour contrasts that boost the accessibility of your video files.

The numerous above-mentioned benefits of creating accessible video and audio content can create a return on your investment quickly and provide a better user experience for all of your customers.

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