Today’s online world is seeing a massive shift towards video. From Facebook and Instagram’s auto-play feature to news sites and business’s exploration of video content and advertising, there has never been a better time to invest in video.
However, in order to make these videos accessible to everyone, creators must account for those viewers who may be visually impaired or hard of hearing.
Below, we outline the steps you need to take to ensure your videos are reaching your entire audience.
Adapting Content for the Visually Impaired
Think about the last video you watched. You probably have a pretty good recollection of what occurred whether it was an ad for car insurance or a video of a cat on a Roomba. But how good would your understanding of that video have been without visuals?
Did someone nod their head in response to a question rather than vocalizing their consent? Was there a moment when someone rolled their eyes or made a face to express discontent? How about even just a shot of someone walking into a bank before beginning a conversation with a teller?
Imagine how confusing your understanding of the video would be if you couldn’t see all of these unspoken gestures and actions. When creating a video for the visually impaired you need to focus on ways to make the visual content accessible to the ears, and not just the eyes.
Many content producers are familiar with the idea of alt tags for images. These tags provide both bots and humans with a written description of any given image. For example, the alt tag for the image at the head of this post is “person with hand up to ear”.
If for some reason the site you’re viewing is having trouble loading a featured image, you’ll see the alt tag description, and so even though you cannot see the image, you know what it is. For those who are visually impaired, the alt tag is essential.
In a similar fashion, audio description provides this same kind of information to the visually impaired. Essentially, you could look at audio description as a series of alt tags that describe anything meaningful which occurs in the video (and which is not already expressly said via dialogue).
Note, did you notice we said meaningful? Adapting online videos with audio description does not require you to describe everything on the screen — to do so would require a massive amount of time and most likely only serve to confuse the viewer as they try to process every single description.
Stick to the significant visual content — aka the content that is necessary to convey the overall meaning of the video.
For instance, unless it’s relevant to the video as a whole, you don’t have to describe what each person is wearing. You also don’t have to describe what the dog is doing in the background, assuming everyone will understand the video without that description.
Adapting Your Video for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
If you want to make it possible for your hearing impaired or deaf viewers to enjoy your video, you need to add either captions or subtitles. There is a slight difference between the two, and which one is used depends on your audience.
Viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing will utilize captions. Captions provide written text that describes everything from background noise to spoken words. Other sounds you’re captions will need to capture include dogs barking, sirens blaring, music blasting and more.
Again though, just as with the audio descriptions, you’ll really only need to provide audio captions for those sounds which are significant to your video.
If there is a scene of a park where children are playing, birds are chirping, dogs are barking and hot dog vendors are hawking their goods, you most likely won’t need to caption each and every one of these sounds. But if someone in the video reacts visually to a specific sound, you’ll definitely want to caption that one.
Subtitles, on the other hand, only transcribe spoken words. If your audience has a slight hearing impairment, subtitles will provide them with the necessary information.
Of course, plenty of viewers who do not have a hearing impairment will also benefit from subtitles. Both those who may be watching your videos in noisy environments as well as those who may not speak English as a first language, can take advantage of subtitles.
When creating both captions and subtitles for your online videos, remember that you will need to make it clear who is speaking which lines of text. And if there is any sort of voice over or off screen voice speaking, you’ll need to label it as such.