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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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.