8 Ways to Make Video Accessible

by Sam Stemler

Videos have quickly become the preferred format for information sharing. They generate more engagement and shares than pictures or text, and there are more videos online than ever before. Making videos accessible to all internet users not only helps improve your SEO, but it also makes your videos more enjoyable. In this blog post, we’ll explain ways to make your video accessible, and tools you can use to add subtitles quickly and easily.

Why Do Videos Need to Be Accessible?

Videos need captions to meet ADA website accessibility requirements. Captions are also required for videos to be accessible for people with complete or partial hearing loss. Though these aspects are important, accessible videos also have other benefits.

Videos with captions or transcripts have been shown to improve SEO and gain higher position on search engine results pages (SERPs) than videos without captions or transcripts. This is partially because search engines can “read” the content of videos when they are accessible. Search engines can read the text files attached to videos containing captions or the transcripts contained on a page. This tells search engines more about the content of the video and whether it suits a particular search query. Since relevant posts show up higher on a SERP and posts that appear higher generate more traffic, videos need captions to improve organic search traffic. This is sometimes called video SEO.

Video captions are also important for anyone who does not watch video with sound. An estimated 85% of users watch Facebook video without sound. This probably represents mobile users who might not have headphones or might be watching in a noisy environment. This also indicates that users on other, similar social media also watch media without sound. In this case, videos without captions would be ineffective.

Videos need either captions or transcripts for to be most effective for most users. There are several ways to do this, some which are more clear and others which take less time. There are also best practices for videos with captions or transcripts that we’ll discuss further in the post.

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Use the Web Accessibility Checklist to Find Out

How to Make Videos Accessible

To make a video accessible, you must provide text representation of sound. This might include a text transcript, posted on the same page as the video, or captions throughout the video. Which method you choose will depend on the purpose and type of video you have. For example, some podcasts include transcripts for hearing impaired users and for SEO value. On the other hand, shorter videos with more action will probably use captions.


What Are Transcripts?

WCAG 2.0 checklist for mediaA transcript is a full, written account of the monologue, dialogue or sound effects in the video. To make videos accessible using transcripts, the transcript should contain the substance of the video. This means that stutters or hesitations might be excluded, unless they affect the mood or understanding of the content. Whole sections or sentences should not be skipped. Even if some sections appear to be outside the point or purpose of the video, skipping them means straying from the content of the video too far and making the transcript inaccurate.

It may also be helpful in a transcript to include coordinating timing marks showing where the transcript interacts with the video. For example, you might put timing marks where an interviewer asks a question, or where the video content changes topic or direction.

When Should I Use Transcripts?

Transcripts are ideal to make video accessible when the content is mostly informational. This is best for podcasts, interviews, essays, or speeches. If the movement or actions in the video are important to the content, a transcript will probably not be ideal.


What are Captions?

A man typing on his laptop while looking at his phoneCaptions are bits of text that correspond with the spoken words or sound effects in the video. Captions must accurately follow the timing of dialogue, monologue or sound effects, or they won’t accurately convey the content of the video. In some cases it may be helpful to include sound effect descriptions such as (door closing) or (soft laughter) to describe a situation.

When Should I Use Captions?

Captions are ideal for short videos or videos where timing and coordination of speech or sound effects are important. This includes shows, movies, ads, how-to videos, or music videos, among others.

8 Ways to Make Videos Accessible

There are several different ways to add captions or transcripts to your video. Some will be more accurate, but take more time, while others will be faster, but may be less accurate. You can do some of these yourself, or work with another company to add subtitles or transcripts for you. Here are a few ways to make videos accessible.

1. YouTube

The video hosting service YouTube will automatically provide subtitles for some videos. For others, you can add your own captions when you upload the video. Keep in mind that automatically added captions are not always correct, so it is a good idea to look these over and edit them where appropriate.

2. Video Editing Programs

Most video editing programs, like Adobe Premiere, AVS video editor, iMovie and others allow you to add captions to your video within the software.

two young people at a computer

3. Free Caption Services

Amara.org allows you to add captions and translate your captions into other languages where needed. This service is free and allows you to work with others on your team. Other services like Kapwing and Closed Caption Creator work similarly.

4. Paid Caption Services

If you have a very long video or you don’t have time to add captions yourself, paid services like Dotsub will do it for you. You simply upload your video, pay for their service, and they will caption your video with quick turnaround. Other services like Automatic Sync Technologies, 3PlayMedia, cielo24 will also add captions for a fee.

5. Transcription Programs

If you are looking for a transcript instead of captions, several programs will help you with this process. InqScribe helps you type out transcripts as you watch a video, making it easy to start and stop the video without a mouse. NCH Software, FTW Transcriber and several other programs work similarly.

6. Voice Recognition Transcripts

Software like Designrr recognizes words automatically and converts them into transcripts. This software is ideal for long transcripts that might be made into books or other media. Trint works similarly.

7. Paid Transcripts

Services like Scribie as well as many independent contractors on sites like Upwork or People Per Hour will transcribe your videos or audio files for you. Keep in mind that accuracy is dependent on the transcriptionist’s skill, so you may pay more for better quality transcription.

8. Word Expanding Software

Programs like Swift Text and Fast Fox make it easier for you to transcribe audio or videos yourself by providing a library of text shortcuts. You can do this yourself by customizing your autocorrect settings, but some people prefer a separate program.

Now that you have eight ways to make videos accessible, try out different services or try creating captions or transcripts yourself to see which method works best for you or your organization. With video captions or transcripts, you’ll not only see SEO benefits, but you’ll also meet ADA requirements for an accessible site.

Basic ADA Website Accessibility Training For Your Team

Once you’ve conducted website accessibility testing and you’ve fixed and barriers in your site, you want your site to stay accessible. For this to happen, everyone adding content to your site must understand the importance of website accessibility and how to maintain it. ADA website accessibility training will help your team understand why online accessibility is important, and how they can maintain website accessibility in the future.

ADA Website Accessibility Training For All Team Members

Website accessibility involves many layers of skills. It’s not necessary for everyone on your team to know all of the details of web accessibility. However, each person should know how to maintain accessibility for the common items that they work with. For that reason, we’ve divided ADA website accessibility training based on tasks that different members of your team are most likely to work with.

For Everyone: Why is Web Accessibility Important?

From web designer to blog writers, programmers to videographers, everyone on your team will be more likely to maintain web accessibility if they understand why it’s important. Here are a few points to emphasize at the beginning of your ADA website accessibility training, so everyone understands why web accessibility matters.

  • When it’s difficult or impossible to leave your home, websites offer a virtual space that is easy to navigate, but only if the website is accessible. Web accessibility allows everyone to use the web equally.
  • Web accessibility allows all users to magnify screens, use voice search, and navigate websites more easily on smaller screens. This benefits disabled users as well as abled users in situations where it’s more difficult to use a website in the traditional way, such as a bumpy bus.
  • If a business is not physically accessible to all patrons, it risks lawsuits. The same is true for websites; many suits have been filed against businesses with inaccessible sites.
  • Using best practices day-to-day makes accessibility audits and overhauls much easier.

Everyone on your should also have access to web accessibility policies and procedures, so everyone is on the same page. It’s also helpful to list contact information for your technical expert or accessibility expert, so staff members feel comfortable asking questions when needed. Finally, a list of links to helpful resources, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) can also be helpful for answering questions.

Help your team stay on the same page
Download the Website Accessibility Checklist

For Writers and Photographers: Alt-Text and Formatting

Any staff members who might add text, images, videos, or sound bites to the site should know how to add these in an accessible way. It’s a good idea to extend this training to those who might work with the site in the future, as well as those who currently do. Printing out an ADA website accessibility checklist might be useful, as some of these items can be easy to overlook.

  • Add alternative text (alt-text) to pictures. The alt-text should be brief, but accurately describe the picture. Make sure to demonstrate, using your CMS, how to do this when adding pictures.
  • Use logical formatting. Headings and proper heading formatting (h1, h2, h3 etc) should be used in a logical order to divide content. Use bold, italics, and underlining for its actual use in the text, not as a way to format headings.
  • Links are clear. Link text should accurately convey where the link is going.
  • Color contrast is clear. Surprisingly, this is the most common web accessibility issue. Color contrast between text and backgrounds should be at least 4.5:1. Generally, this will already be built into the website’s styles and templates. Before changing any colors from their defaults, use accessibility testing tools like a contrast checker.

For Videographers: Closed Captions and Controls

Videos are becoming increasingly important across the worldwide web. Making accessible videos is therefore an important part of your ADA website accessibility training. Team members that create, edit, and post videos should all be aware of these elements.

  • Videos use closed captions. This way videos can be understood without sound. Deaf users cannot use sound and many mobile users do not use sound, so this is a good measure for everyone.
  • Audio and video do not play automatically. It’s disruptive for people using screen readers and for users in general when content plays without a command. These controls should also have a stop button.
  • Video does not flash more than three times a second. Frequent flashing is distracting for everyone, and hazardous for people with seizure disorders.

For Designers and Developers: Navigation and Control

Designers and developers deal with more complex aspects of the site. These experts have more technical knowledge, but they will also have more responsibility when it comes to keeping the site accessible. Make sure that your ADA website accessibility training session and facilitator can address more complex questions related to web design and development.

  • The site should be navigable with a keyboard. This means using elements like skip navigation links and menus that can be opened and dismissed on click. Any “keyboard traps” where a user can get stuck should be eliminated.
  • The site has reflow capabilities. Reflow allows the site reorganize based on screen size or magnification, which is helpful for mobile users or those with visual impairments.
  • The site is usable without images or color. You can test this yourself by turning off images and style sheets in your browser. If your site is tough to use without them, it’s even more difficult for someone using a screen reader.
  • How to test. Since designers and developers are responsible for the site’s function, navigation, and appearance, they should know how to test the site to ensure any changes or additions are still accessible. A number of programmatic testing tools and manual testing procedures can help.

Though some will have more experience with the website than others, it’s important to remember that web accessibility is not just one person’s responsibility. Anyone working with the website should understand how to maintain web accessibility, and why it’s important. ADA website accessibility training combined with audits and corrective measures will ensure that your site remains accessible to all patrons.