Best Practices for Video Accessibility

Person using a screen reader

For some, the presence of a video on a computer screen is… just that.  A video.  Information presented in the form of images and sound.  For others, that video is a gap in the information accessible to them from the website, EPUB or document as a whole.

You’ve put time into your message. You’ve put effort into directing that message toward an audience. So learn how accessibility guidelines can help you ensure that your message is available to anyone who happens upon it.

Video content is a mix of visual information and audio information. If someone is deaf or blind, your content will be incomplete to them. So how can we bridge those gaps and ensure that anyone visiting your page or viewing your document or EPUB will be able to access all of its content?


A transcript, simply put, is a text version of your video. In a basic transcript, the speech and some of the audio (for context) of the video is written out.  In a descriptive transcript, some visual descriptions are provided as well.  Descriptive transcripts are a great way to make your video content accessible, not just to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also to people who are viewing your content on a screen reader.

Audio Descriptions of Visual Information

Similar to description transcripts, Audio Descriptions of Visual Information—represented by the AD symbol—make the important visual context of your video (or livestream) accessible.  Integrated Audio Descriptions of Visual Information make this context available in realtime.  However, creating Integrated Audio Descriptions requires there to be space within the audio of your video for the descriptions. It’s a good idea to start thinking about accessibility while you’re still in the planning phase of your project.

Captions (subtitles)

Captions are an obvious choice for making your videos accessible to users who deaf or hard of hearing. They also make your content more accessible to users who have trouble processing auditory information. And users who happen to be accessing your content in a loud setting or who prefer not to use the audio on their device will also see a benefit.  Captions have recently been the subject of high profile web accessibility lawsuit directed at Harvard University.

Sign Language

Sign Language is a less common way of making a video accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing.  However, in certain settings, such as a livestream or broadcast, Sign Language can be very effective in helping convey your message to the largest possible audience.  Recently in Minnesota, sign language interpreter Nic Zapko went viral for providing live sign language translations of Minnesota state officials during their press conferences. She made the important information discussed in the press conferences immediately available to the deaf and hard of hearing.

One final thing to consider is your video player itself.  Can someone pause, play, and navigate your video without the use of sight?  And is your video player compatible with screen readers and other accessibility technologies?  To make sure your video reaches as wide an audience as possible, it’s a good idea to consult with an accessibility firm or a web accessibility consulting firm.  An expert in web and digital accessibility can make sure your site is ADA compliant and that your content meets the guidelines of the WGAC 2.0 or, even better, the WGAC 2.1.

Best Practices for Video Accessibility
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