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Designing for Accessibility

Tips, tricks for Universal Design, Design for All

Audio files always need transcripts or text equivalents.

Video files always need transcripts and/or captions of dialog.

Hearing impairment icon.

Captions

Assume the viewer cannot hear

Subtitles icon.

Subtitles

Assume the viewer cannot understand the language

Visual impairment icon.

Audio Descriptions

Assume the viewer cannot see

TEMPLATE

Principles

Captions should be:

  • Synchronized - the text content should appear at approximately the same time that audio would be available
  • Equivalent - content provided in captions should be equivalent to that of the spoken word
  • Accessible - caption content should be readily accessible and available to those who need it

WebAIM has more information about Captions, Transcripts, and Audio Descriptions

Transcripts versus Captions

There are differences in how these text descriptions are delivered:

  • Transcripts provide the the captions in a separate file
  • Open Captions are permanently displayed in the video file (i.e. "burned in")
  • Closed Captions are embedded into the file and can be toggled ON/OFF

For subtitles,

  • Dialog in a foreign language is usually burned in (open captions)
  • Dialog in the same language is usually closed captioned

How to Create Captions

Read these tips on how to create captions.

These tools are mainly for video captions, but can be used for audio files as well:

  • Temi - Web-based automatic captioning. $0.10/minute
  • Amara - Web-based do-it-yourself captioning. Free; can upgrade to paid plans for automatic captions
  • Subtitle Edit - Stand-alone software for captioning. Free
  • CADET - Stand-alone software for captioning and audio description. Free

Additional options are available on Captioning Your Own Videos (For Free)

Some of these sites will output the text as transcriptions.

See also: Formatting Transcriptions

Audio Description

Audio Description (AD) is way to describe visual content to a visually-impaired audience.

In web videos, they are often embedded as separate audio tracks that can be toggled ON/OFF.

The Audio Description Project from the American Council of the Blind compiles lists of museums, performing arts venues, DVDs, TV channels, streaming services, and more that provide audio description.

Although AD is not necessarily required by law, please use it in your professional practice. Learn more with the Describing Visual Resources Toolkit

The Importance of Audio Description

Daredevil (2015)

Daredevil is a television show about a blind lawyer who uses enhanced senses to navigate the world. Yet Netflix did not consider that any of its viewers would be visually impaired.

  • Season 1 was released without an Audio Description track
  • So, blind fans were not able to enjoy a television series about a blind hero
  • Many people complained - including the lead actress, whose boyfriend was visually impaired
  • There was even a change.org petition
  • Netflix quickly added AD

Find out more about the fight for audio description for Daredevil.

Black Panther (2018)

Thomas Reid describes what happens when audio description is done badly in this podcast episode (text and audio). The AD track for Black Panther:

  • failed to capture the nuances of the Wakandan set and costume design
  • describer's voice did not match the tone of the film

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