4 Mistakes That Hurt Video Accessibility (And How To Avoid Them)

November 11, 2021

Video is an essential tool for building engagement. Per one survey from video production service Wyzowl, 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and 93% of marketers say that video is an important part of their strategy.

However, audiovisual media can create accessibility concerns. Most of these issues can be addressed easily during production and post-production, but brands need to be aware of how their audiences perceive their content to avoid mistakes. By taking a few simple steps, you can create content that’s more useful for people with disabilities — and provide options that enhance the on-page experience for all users.

Below, we’ll highlight some common issues that can create accessibility barriers for video content. For more guidance, read our Checklist for Creating Accessible Videos.

1. Using a video player with poor accessibility features

Some video players have limited accessibility features, which can limit the appeal of your content. Make sure your video player’s controls can be operated with a keyboard or an assistive technology. Most third-party media players offer this functionality, but if a player’s controls require a mouse or touch input, a sizable percentage of your audience will be unable to use them.

Other important considerations: 

  • The media player should provide a visible focus indicator to enable users to control playback. 
  • Avoid autoplay, which can be distracting or frustrating for certain users. 
  • Look for media players that allow users to change the speed of the video, which can be useful for people with certain neurocognitive conditions or mobility-related disabilities.
  • Some media players offer interactive transcripts, which highlight phrases as they are spoken. If you’re able to keep transcripts accurate, this can be an extremely beneficial feature.

If you decide to host your content on your website, research video players thoroughly and look for supported accessibility features. When in doubt, post your videos via a well-known hosting service like YouTube, which supports closed captioning and transcripts. 

2. Using video captions incorrectly

Captions are beneficial for users with hearing-relating disabilities as well as people who’d simply prefer to keep their sound off while browsing. However, captions need to be accurate, and wherever possible, they should be optional. 

A few quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Review your captions thoroughly before uploading them. 
  • Make sure your captions include descriptions of all important audio content — not just speech. 
  • Make sure your captions are appropriately synced with your multimedia content.

Some social media platforms have limited closed caption support, which has led to an increase in pre-rendered (or “burned in") captions. Some users may find captions distracting or confusing, and pre-rendered captions have limited utility for many people (including screen reader users). 

Ultimately, pre-rendered captions can be helpful when optional captions aren’t supported, but try to offer options wherever possible. Remember, the goal of digital accessibility is to make content more useful for everyone — not a specific group with disabilities.

Read: What Website Developers Need to Know About Closed Captions

3. Failing to provide transcripts for video content

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) requires transcripts for all pre-recorded video content, including videos with no audio content. Transcripts should be descriptive, accurate, and comprehensive. When writing transcripts, keep your goals in mind: If users decide not to watch your video, they should be able to get an equivalent experience from reading the text. 

Accurate transcripts can expand the audience for your content considerably. People with hearing disabilities, neurocognitive differences, and other conditions might prefer to avoid video, and by providing that option, you’re keeping them involved in the conversation. Adding transcripts can also improve search engine optimization, and transcript text can be incorporated into your website in a variety of ways to maintain aesthetic appeal. 

4. Ignoring color contrast

Color contrast is a critical component of digital accessibility, but brands often ignore contrast ratios when creating video content. Put simply, color contrast refers to the difference in light between text (or other elements in the foreground of the video) and the background. 

WCAG requires a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text (including images of text) and a 3:1 contrast ratio for large text. For multimedia content, err on the side of caution: Wherever possible, use light text on a dark background (or vice-versa). Use a simple, legible font for onscreen text. Finally, avoid overusing red and green, which can create confusion for people with color vision deficiencies (commonly known as colorblindness).

Read: The Basics and Importance of Color Contrast for Web Accessibility

Plan for accessibility when creating video content

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember: As long as you’re considering people with disabilities while creating content, you’re on the right path. Do your best, and your audience will appreciate the effort. Video content can appeal to a wide audience, and the best practices of digital accessibility can make your media much more useful. 

Most importantly, think about your audience from the first stages of production. Planning for digital accessibility is much easier — and much more successful — than retrofitting your content with accessibility features. If you prioritize accessibility when creating videos, you’ll be able to easily create transcripts, add captions, and present your audience with better content.

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