Accessible video and audio

We published a top tip in last month’s newsletter on how to go about ensuring you have accessible video and audio on your website, so I thought I’d put my thoughts up on the blog as well.

Accessibility isn’t just limited to the text on your website – it applies to all types of content including multimedia. With video and audio becoming more and more common across the web it’s essential that you do as much as possible to open up this content to all website users, and it’s not as complicated as you may think.  Below are some tips for catering for three key user groups:

Blind web users
The key requirement for blind web users for accessible video is that all visual changes within videos are conveyed through non-visual means. Ideally this would be though an additional voice-over within the video (which can be switched on or off) describing the visual changes. Creating this for all your videos can be very costly and time-consuming, so an alternative is to provide a written transcript for the video, with a comprehensive description of the video. Also, ensure that video and audio don’t automatically play on web pages as the sound can interfere with screen reader speech.
Mobility-impaired web users
For most mobility-impaired users, effective keyboard access to content is key to offering accessible video and audio. All audio/video controls need to work with the keyboard as well as the mouse and the tabbing order through these controls should be logical (which usually means left-to-right). Finally, there should be a focus state for each control when tabbed onto – often this is a yellow border around the control so it’s probably best to follow this convention. Do also bear in mind that blind users utilising screen readers are also keyboard-only users so these guidelines also apply to them.
Deaf web users
For deaf web users the most important thing when making accessible video and audio is that equivalents are provided for all content that relies on sound. This means offering written transcripts for audio files and subtitles within videos (which can be switched on or off). Ideally, and for optimal accessibility, you’ll also provide sign language for any videos as this is the first language for many hearing impaired people (especially those deaf since birth).

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