Today, we are seeing a revival of old trends, when it comes to moving images. One such example is silent videos. One may think they belong to a hundred years ago, but they are making a comeback in the most unexpected of places, social media. Every day we are watching low-budget, crowdsourced videos with optional audio taking social media such as Facebook and Instagram by storm, with millions of views. This trend stems from the convenience of watching the videos anytime and anywhere. In this article, we will give you tips on to add accessibility features to your videos.
Why Should You Add Accessibility to Your Videos?
More than half of the videos streamed online are watched without sound. Users are choosing deliberately to watch videos without sound, relying on the closed captions to follow it. This allows watching the content undisturbed by the volume, for example, in work environments. Statistics show that a closed-captioned video engages a viewer for 12% longer.
Therefore, a trend is emerging where videos are produced and delivered in a way that all members of the audience can enjoy the content. That means a video with accessibility should include captions and audio description at least, to cater to users with hearing or sight impairment. It goes without saying that accessibility should be a standard feature of all educational videos, from work training to University classes.
Tips to Optimize Images for Accessibility
There are several ways to make video content more accessible to all audiences and engaging. Let’s review a few of them:
Adding text overlay to images
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)2.0 has been the standard for creating accessible content since 2016. Some of their basic guidelines affecting text include:
- Use enough contrast—meaning the white letters on the dark background sometimes can get washed out when the background is not solid. A way to get around this is to put a dark overlay on the background before laying the text.
- Don’t rely on color to tell the message—while red or green have clear meanings to someone with normal eyesight, for people with color blindness it results in different shades of gray or tan. Therefore, it is important to add graphic clues to the text that can help them decode the message.
To comply with the guidelines you can add text overlay to images. This technology allows you to embed a caption or watermark a video for copyright reasons. You can also use it to create dynamic images in banners with variable content. This option does require some coding skills, although there are several tools available that can help you overlay text with a few lines of code.
While subtitles is a term used interchangeably with captions, there is a subtle difference, because subtitles can refer to both captions and transcripts. Captions are text versions of the audio content, synchronized with the video. This technique is essential for ensuring the video is accessible to users with hearing impairment. They also help non-native English speakers, for example, to understand the video.
Other benefits of captioning include:
- Allows viewers to search for content within the video
- Helps students learn the spelling of terms spoken in the video
- Generates an interactive transcript clicking in the transcript to watch the relevant part of the video
There are two general methods to caption a video:
- Do it yourself—there are free and commercial tools available that make it possible and easy to add subtitles to your video. Some of them only require a couple of lines, if so, of code.
- Outsource—some public higher education institutions have contracts with captioning services. There are solutions for the enterprise level that let you easily add subtitles to your video, some of them with editing and digital asset management features.
Regardless of the option chosen, both options result in a caption file. Most caption files are simple text files with timestamps indicating the start and stop times. All you need to do is add it to your video. However, there are integrated solutions that help you do it more smoothly.
It is a separate narrative audio track describing important visual content, making it accessible to people unable to see the video. Blind or sight-impaired individuals can understand the video content by listening to its audio. Therefore, if a video includes content that can only be accessed visually, this description makes the content accessible. Like captioning, you can add audio description yourself or rely on commercial service.
If you opt to hire a service, there are several commercial services that produce audio description. You can find one list in the American Council of the Blind page. Typical professional audio description can include an audio file with soundtrack and description, or an audio description replacing the original soundtrack. Anyway, it is better if the audio description is presented as an optional link, making it available to everybody.
If you opt to do it yourself, you can do a timed text file, that is similar to a closed caption file. For videos with very little visual information, it can be useful, as is a lower-cost method to describe a few passages. For example, a video that includes overlay text, or on-screen text that is not voiced over in the audio track.
You can create these timed text files by using the same online tools for creating closed caption tracks. Description files look the same as caption tracks, a short block of text with timestamps that synchronize with the audio. However, their intention is to be read aloud by a media player instead of a narrator. There is the possibility of combining live captioning and description to cover all grounds.
Technology has allowed us to develop accessible content for everyone. Advances such as closed captions, live captions, and audio descriptions bring the interconnectedness at the reach of every user. Moreover, we are seeing a growing trend of viewers watching videos without sound, out of convenience. Therefore, organizations should be leveraging technologies such as captioning and text overlay software to take advantage of this trend and produce meaningful and accessible content.
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.