ADA Compliance for Videos: Why It Matters and How to Do It

ADA Compliance for Videos

ADA Compliance for Videos: Why It Matters and How to Do It

Have you ever watched a video without captions and found it hard to follow? In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that everyone, including those with disabilities, can access information equally. Video accessibility is crucial for meeting these standards.

Videos are great for sharing information and entertainment. But without features like captions and audio descriptions, many people miss out. Adding these features makes videos accessible to everyone, promoting inclusivity. This blog explores ADA compliance for videos, highlighting its importance in ensuring fair access to content for all. Let’s explore further!

Why ADA Compliance Matters for Videos?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), particularly Titles II and III, focuses on ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to information. This includes videos you might find on a company website, in a government building, or even at a bus stop.
Ensuring ADA compliance for videos is important because it shows a commitment to inclusivity. Brands that prioritize accessibility not only improve user experience but also build stronger customer loyalty. By making content accessible to all users, brands can reach a wider audience and potentially increase sales.
It’s important to consider that a significant portion of the population—over 42 million people in the United States alone—live with disabilities. Failing to provide accessible videos could exclude many potential customers.
Additionally, there has been an increase in lawsuits related to accessibility. Law firms are targeting businesses of all sizes for non-compliance, which could result in fines and damage to brand reputation.
Therefore, investing in ADA compliance for videos is not only about ethical responsibility but also about reducing legal risks and ensuring business sustainability.

A Breakdown of How the ADA Applies to Videos:

  • Public Places (Title II): Imagine going to a government office and needing to watch an instructional video, but there are no captions. That's a situation the ADA aims to prevent. Title II applies to government agencies, so any videos they share online or in public spaces need to be accessible.
  • Businesses and Websites (Title III): The ADA also applies to private businesses and nonprofits that are open to the public (like restaurants, stores, and websites). If these organizations use videos for information or marketing, those videos must also be accessible according to Title III.
In short, if your organization shares videos online or in any public space, you need to make sure those videos can be understood and enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their abilities.

Making Videos ADA Compliant

1. Add Captions to Your Videos

Captions are a great way to make your videos accessible to a wider audience. Following the WCAG 2.1 guidelines, captions on pre-recorded videos allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to follow along.

Adding captions in multiple languages can also expand your reach. Viewers who don’t speak the original language can still understand your content, boosting your video’s impact.
Captions are also helpful for people watching in noisy environments or who prefer to follow along by reading. There are two main types of captions: closed captions (which viewers can turn on or off) and open captions (which are always visible). Closed captions are generally recommended to give viewers more control over their experience.
Here are some tips for creating good captions:
  • Keep the text clear and concise. Avoid long paragraphs, as they can be difficult to read while watching the video.
  • Identify who is speaking whenever there are multiple people talking.
  • If there are scenes with only music, mention it in the captions to help viewers understand what's happening.

2. Provide Audio Descriptions

Many viewers, especially those with low vision, may find it challenging to understand a video without extra details about the visuals. This is where audio descriptions come in, providing spoken narration that enhances the viewing experience.
What to Include in Audio Descriptions:
  1. Actions: Describe what characters are doing, including gestures and movements.
  2. Costumes: Mention what characters are wearing, especially if it's important to the story or setting.
  3. Settings: Describe the environment, including locations and backgrounds.
  4. Scene Changes: Clearly announce transitions between scenes to help viewers follow along.
These elements are crucial for effective audio descriptions.
Creating Effective Audio Descriptions:
  1. Plan Ahead: Watch the video and take detailed notes on the visuals.
  2. Write a Script: Use your notes to draft a script for the audio description, making sure it flows smoothly.
  3. Be Clear: Focus on clear and concise descriptions of characters, settings, and key details.
  4. Use a Good Microphone: Record the audio description with a high-quality microphone, speaking at a moderate pace and pausing for emphasis when needed.
  5. Sync Perfectly: Align the recorded audio description with the video using editing software, placing descriptions during natural pauses in the dialogue.
  6. Consider Extended Descriptions: If the dialogue has few pauses, create an "extended audio description" version by editing the video to allow for longer descriptions.
  7. Test and Refine: Review the final product to ensure the descriptions are accurate and well-timed, making adjustments as necessary.
  8. Share with Confidence: Once finalized, share your video knowing it is accessible to a broader audience.

3. Add Transcripts to Your Video

Adding transcripts to your videos is a great way to make them accessible to a wider audience. People who are unable to watch the video itself can still understand the content by reading the transcript.
It’s important to note that transcripts are different from captions. Transcripts aren’t synced with the video, while captions match the timing of the spoken parts. Transcripts are a written record, usually displayed on a separate page, requiring viewers to switch their focus back and forth between reading and watching.
Organizations like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) offer guidelines for creating accessible videos, and including transcripts is a key part of that. Here are some tips for making your transcripts helpful:
  1. Include Details: Try to capture everything in the video. If a speaker makes some noise between words, include that in the text using brackets.
  2. Non-speech Sounds: Note any sounds that aren't speaking, like "[phone rings]" or "[laughter]."
  3. Music: Use musical symbols to indicate the beginning and end of music sections. For example, "[♪]" at the start and end of a song.
  4. Lowercase for Dialogue: Use regular capitalization for spoken dialogue, not all caps.

4. Ensuring Keyboard Accessibility

Sometimes using a computer mouse can be difficult. For people with certain limitations, using keyboard shortcuts is a much easier way to navigate websites and interact with content. This includes videos! Following guidelines set by WCAG makes sure your videos can be controlled entirely with a keyboard.
Why is this important? Keyboard accessibility allows people with motor impairments to fully enjoy your videos. They can play, pause, adjust volume, and move between different parts using keys like Tab, Enter, arrow keys, and Space.
Here are some simple steps to make your videos keyboard-friendly:
  1. Test it Yourself! Use your keyboard like a remote. Try navigating with Tab, Shift + Tab, and arrow keys. Can you access all controls?
  2. Let Viewers Jump Around. Make sure they can easily switch between the video itself and control options.
  3. Logical Flow. Imagine someone reading a book. The information should be presented in a logical order, from left to right. The same goes for navigating the video player with the keyboard.
  4. Clear Focus. When someone tabs to an element, it should be visually clear which part of the video they're interacting with.
  5. Choose a Friendly Player. Pick a video player that allows full keyboard control, including features like volume adjustment, captions, and playback speed.

5. Avoid Flashing Content

Some viewers might be sensitive to flashing images, which can cause seizures. It’s best to avoid them altogether if possible. If you absolutely need to use flashing images, be sure to clearly warn viewers in advance so they can skip that part or stop the video entirely.

6. Choose an Accessible Video Player (if not using YouTube)

If you’re not hosting your videos on YouTube, consider using a video player that allows for accessibility features. These players let viewers adjust settings and add tools to make the video easier to understand.
Some popular accessible video players include Kaltura Player, Plyr, Open Media Player, and Acorn Media Player.
If you choose to use YouTube, remember that automatic captions might not always be perfect. Take the time to review and edit the captions before you publish your video.

Additional Considerations (Going a Mile Extra!)

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offer a globally recognized framework for making online content accessible to all users. Complying with WCAG 2.1 Level AA ensures your videos meet essential accessibility standards, which is important for both legal requirements and inclusivity. This typically includes features like captions and transcripts.
For organizations aiming to provide the highest level of accessibility, WCAG 2.1 Level AAA offers even more advanced options. While not all businesses may have the resources to reach this level, it represents a strong commitment to inclusive video content.

Key features of WCAG 2.1 Level AAA include:

  1. Sign Language Interpretation: This adds a visual translation of spoken content for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, allowing them to fully understand the video's message.
  2. Extended Audio Descriptions: When standard audio descriptions are too brief due to limited dialogue breaks, extended descriptions with pauses for detailed narration can greatly improve understanding.
  3. Media Alternatives for Combined Vision and Hearing Impairments: For viewers with both visual and hearing challenges, detailed text transcripts are essential. These transcripts should cover all visual elements, actions, expressions, sounds, and a full transcription of the dialogue.

How to Test Your Videos for Accessibility?

Making sure everyone can enjoy your videos is important, but how can you check if they’re easy to understand for all viewers? Here are a few ways to test your videos for accessibility:
  1. Watch it on Mute: Play your video with the sound off. Can you still follow along with what's happening on screen just by watching the visuals?
  2. Try a Screen Reader: These programs read text on the screen aloud, helping people who are blind or have low vision. See if a screen reader can clearly read any captions or information you have in your video.
  3. Double-check the Captions: Take a close look at your captions to make sure they're accurate, match the timing of the video, and are formatted well.
  4. Use Online Tools: There are websites that can help you find accessibility problems in your videos. They might not catch everything, but they're a good starting point.
  5. Get Feedback from Viewers: The best way to test is to ask people with disabilities! See if viewers who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have low vision can easily understand your videos.
By trying out these testing methods, you can find and fix any accessibility issues in your videos before you share them with everyone.

Closing Thoughts

Creating accessible videos isn’t just about legal compliance; it’s about inclusivity and reaching a wider audience. By following the steps outlined here and incorporating features like captions, audio descriptions, and transcripts, you ensure everyone can enjoy your video content. Remember, a small investment in accessibility can make a big difference in the reach and impact of your videos. Let’s all work together to create a more inclusive online experience!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How can I make my YouTube video ADA-compliant?

Focus on captions and audio descriptions. Add captions that accurately reflect dialogue and sound effects. Consider using a captioning service for best results. For viewers who are blind or have low vision, include an audio description narrating the visual elements of your video.

2. Are automatic YouTube captions ADA-compliant?

Unfortunately, no. While automatic captions are a helpful starting point, they can be inaccurate and miss important details. For ADA compliance, it’s recommended to have captions checked by a human or professionally edited for accuracy and proper timing.

3. What about graphics in ADA-compliant videos?

While the ADA primarily focuses on electronic content accessibility, the principles extend to graphic design within the video. To make your graphics inclusive, use colors with high contrast for text and background. Additionally, consider adding alternative text descriptions (alt text) that can be read by screen readers, and keep the overall design clear and uncluttered.

4. How can I make my online content ADA-compliant in general?

The core principle is to provide alternative ways to access information for users with different abilities. For videos, captions and audio descriptions are crucial. For written content, ensure it’s easy to read with good color contrast and offer options for keyboard navigation, allowing users to navigate the content without relying solely on a mouse. By providing these alternatives, you’ll make your online content accessible to a wider audience.


Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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