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Improving Video Accessibility for State and Local Government Websites

Jan 18, 2018

Videos are perhaps the web’s most powerful tool for educating and entertaining. Last year, YouTube reported that users consume more than 1 billion hours of video content on the website every day.

And it’s not just Netflix and Hulu that people are checking out. Increasingly, state and local government websites are leveraging video for a variety of purposes: promoting tourism, issuing storm warnings, updating viewers on new urban development projects, informing citizens how to vote, releasing messages from the mayor’s office, and other important happenings.

Being truly inclusive when building your website means that your videos must be accessible to everyone — including people with disabilities. If you fail to provide accessibility methods, such as closed captioning and transcripts, community members with hearing impairments will find it harder to learn about neighborhood improvement programs or find out what happened at the last city council meeting, which impedes participation in the community. Improving video accessibility on your state or local website is just one way to make it easier for the 19% of Americans with disabilities to become active participants in their communities.

Guidelines for Video Accessibility

A variety of federal legislation requires state and local government websites to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Some of the relevant laws and regulations include:

WCAG 2.0 is the most popular set of standards for web accessibility, and its use in the ICT refresh of Section 508 gives it further credibility in the eyes of the federal government. The Level AA criteria include several requirements for video accessibility:

  • Pre-recorded video content must have an audio description.
  • All pre-recorded and live audio content must have captions, unless the content is an alternative for text.

If your organization fails to comply with the legislation above, it could be at legal risk. The federal government’s use of the ADA in order to make websites more accessible has sharply increased in recent years. For example, in 2016, the Department of Justice charged the University of California, Berkeley, a publicly funded university, with violating Title II of the ADA because many of the lecture videos that the university published online did not have adequate closed captioning.


There’s a lot to gain from making the videos on your state or local government website more accessible — and there’s also a lot to lose if you find yourself the target of a DOJ lawsuit. If you need advice on how your organization needs should pursue greater accessibility, BoIA is able to help. We provide a free graded report of your website’s compliance with the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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