PEAT Blog

Accessible Videos Are Your Friend

If an image is worth a thousand words, what is a video worth? According to Forrester Research, it’s 1.8 million words. Today, YouTube is the second most visited website globally, and Cisco predicts that by 2020, IP video traffic will be 82 percent of all consumer Internet traffic. In short, videos now dominate the web, including in the workplace. Forbes found that 75% of executives watch work-related videos on business websites at least once a week, and 59% of executives would rather watch video than read text. Videos are also becoming an important strategy in hiring and recruiting, particularly since videos shared on social media generate twelve times more shares than text and images. And to reach a full audience, you must ensure that your videos are accessible.

Everyone loves accessible videos

The good news is that making your videos accessible also boosts user engagement generally. Plus, closed-captioned videos also rank higher in organic search results. Why? Because search engines can search through captions, whereas they can’t (yet) search through a video.

And people clearly prefer videos with a text alternative–I know I do. Often I am waiting for a plane or a taxi, checking Facebook. I find I will ignore the videos that don’t have captions, because I can’t watch them with the audio off. And I’m not alone. The BBC has reported that 80% of people who use captions are not deaf or hard-of-hearing, and Discovery Digital Networks similarly found that adding captions to YouTube videos increased views significantly.

This is an essential consideration if you have videos aimed at staff. In addition to accessibility benefits, being able to use videos without using audio has become essential increasingly important in open work spaces and environments today. As with most accessibility issues, content that is accessible to the widest audience ends up being more usable for everyone.

Standards and regulations

Familiarizing yourself with the relevant standards and regulations is also a good idea. There have been many cases in the U.S. over the last several years related to video accessibility, and not just within the entertainment industry. In 2014, for example, a major shipping company was sued for not providing closed captioning on employee training videos. 

What makes a video accessible?

To make your videos accessible to everyone, you need to provide the following:

  • Video descriptions, which provide an audio description of the visual part of the video for people who are blind or have low vision.
  • Captions, which provide a text description of the audio part of the video for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Note that you must always be careful to provide accurate captions. Automatically generated captions (such as that found on YouTube’s “video manager” feature) always require manual editing for accuracy before publication.
  • Text transcripts, which combine a text description of the visual part of the video and captions to provide a complete text alternative to the video.
  • Accessible content in the video itself. For example, do not rely on color to convey information.
  • No flashing screens. Flickering, flashing or strobing content can trigger seizures in people with photo-sensitive epilepsy or migraines (like me!). In fact, a Pokémon TV episode in Japan triggered seizures in hundreds of people.
  • No autoplay. Many video players default to automatically playing a video as the page is loading, which is highly inaccessible to many different groups of people with disabilities.
  • An accessible video player. When selecting your player format, it’s essential that you evaluate the options with accessibility needs in mind.

For details on implementing accessible videos, please see PEAT’s Video Accessibility Factsheet, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

About the Author

Gian Wild headshot

Gian Wild

Gian Wild is the CEO of AccessibilityOz. She has worked in accessibility industry since 1998. She spent six years contributing to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Version 2.0 and spoke at the United Nations Conference of State Parties on the importance of web accessibility.