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Creating accessible content

According to research, video content will account to 82% of all web traffic this year. There’s no denying, it is huge.

There is just one issue though. Much of this video content is inaccessible for audiences with disabilities.

Disabilities aren’t solely in the form of a physical impairment, it is a condition of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for the individual to do certain activities and interact with the world around them. To put into perspective the size of this audience, almost 13% of the American population is categorised as disabled.

So what is “accessible content”?

In short, this is the process of reducing basic barriers to comprehension, to give disabled audiences an experience that is comparable with an abled-bodied audience's experience with the same content.

Not only is this diversity of content advantageous to connect with disabled audiences, but it also allows every audience member to absorb content in a different format. E.g. even someone without a hearing impairment may prefer to watch a video with the sound off and subtitles on. This adds increased variation for how audiences can consume their content.

In our increasingly digital era, it’s important to note that people don't inherently possess equal abilities — e.g. IQ levels vary, physical features vary, talents and strengths lie in different areas, and yet technologies are often designed around particular user groups' capacities, even though disabled audiences may struggle to navigate around the same user space. Think of it as ‘levelling the playing field’.

Therefore it’s clearly hugely beneficial to be mindful of user accessibility when producing digital content. Not only is it usually low cost and low effort to design and incorporate necessary features, but it also provides an improved experience for the disabled community, whilst also providing different formats of content to audiences without disabilities.

What guidelines are put in place to ensure accessible content?

The WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) were created by the World Wide Web Consortium to help web developers and content creators make accessible and inclusive content to a wide range of people with disabilities. They provide 3 levels of compliance for standards to hit.

Considerations for making accessible videos:

When making a video where content or audio is key to the storytelling, this a key time to be considerate to accessibility needs.

Captions should be clear, (YouTube can create these automatically) with easy to digest fonts (such as larger spacing between characters and serifs). Be mindful of colours - this is a really easy way to create contrast and make text easier to read. Avoid flashy animations that could distract from the text or cause seizures to some viewers.

Transcripts go even further than captions by offering the full text of all that is said in a video. In addition to providing an alternative form of content to those with hearing impairments or with reduced cognitive processes, transcripts also allow audiences without disabilities to scan through content quickly for key words specific to what they are looking for.

Audio descriptions shouldn’t be overlooked. They provide description of anything visual in an audio format for those that are visually impaired. This could include descriptions of images, motion graphics, B roll, infographics and animations. There are two forms of audio descriptions.

Standard audio description provides a basic breakdown of the obvious visuals on the screen. It is just about enough information to break down the narrative of a video.

Extended description supplies precise description of the action on screen over every frame. E.g. this may include mentioning sound effects and environmental sounds as well.

These apps are designed for those with hearing impairments:

- Google Transcribe: automatically transcribes speech

- AVA: uses AI to convert audio into text

- Signly: converts sign language into text or speech

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