This article is written as part of our Accessible Web Content series.
Videos are hardly ever truly accessible to everyone–there is a lot of planning, time, and skill that needs to go into it.
Captions are a great place to start when making videos useful to a wider audience. Some people rely on captions to get any information from your video at all. Some viewers use captions to increase comprehension.
A caption is text on screen that can be read at the same time the words are being said. Captions should include other important audio-only information like music or loud/significant noises.
Automated captions can be used as a starting point. They must be manually corrected after they’ve been generated by platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Captions are not equal subtitles. Subtitles are only the spoken words converted to text. Often they are used for translating a video from one written language to another.
Text-based captions might not be useful for those who have sign languages, like ASL or BSL, as their first or only language.
Creating captions or subtitles in a sign language is a bit different than text-based ones. There will need to be a separate cut of the video with a section of the screen being the person who is captioning.
Captions are not transcripts! Not everybody will find captions useful, and some people need transcripts in order to get information from your video.
Transcripts are viewed or linked to on the same page as the video, usually underneath or beside it. It contains nearly the same information as captions, however it is a full and complete standalone document.
Again automated transcripts can be used as a starting point--they must be manually corrected.
Some viewers won’t be able to get any information from a completely silent ad or film. Unlike captions and transcripts that move audio-only content to a written form, audio descriptions move visual-only content to an audible form.
This means that visual cues are described alongside the rest of the audible content. For example, a completely silent shot of a bad guy sneaking up on the hero will have a voiceover explaining what’s happening. Or, text on screen in a marketing video will be read aloud by an engaging voice actor.
Incorporating this type of voiceover or audio description needs to be thought about while the video is being edited so there is space for this audio. Or, in the case of some video material, a voice actor needs to be hired to do an ad read.
WCAG compliance is not the end-all be-all of accessibility. Even if your website is 100% AAA WCAG compliant, it still won’t be accessible to everybody. That said, it’s a great tool to use to gauge needs and how to move forward.
Relevant WCAG Criterion
For more detailed information straight from the source, visit the following pages
- Item 1.1.1 - Level A - Non-text Content
- Item 1.2.1 - Level A - Audio-only and video-only (Prerecorded)
- Item 1.2.2 - Level A - Captions (Prerecorded)
- Item 1.2.3 - Level A - Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded)
- Item 1.2.4 - Level AA - Captions (Live)
- Item 1.2.5 - Level AA - Audio Description (Prerecorded)