It’s Monday again and seemingly, Monday’s come around very quickly. Really, it’s been no time at all since last weeks blog post on Visual Information and the previous weeks post on Text.

We do hope you are finding these hints and tips helpful in your practices as this week we turn our attention to accessible video. Video in digital terms are files such as MP4, WAV, and other moving image formats that support video and audio.

At Queen’s, many people narrate slides and render this to MP4 format (i.e., slide voiceover). No matter if you shoot video or create video filetypes, in terms of accessibility, there are a few considerations to include:

  • build accessibility in from the start
  • design
  • consideration of visual content / flashing / animated images
  • screen reader sequence
  • captions / subtitles

There will be other considerations but let’s start with the list above.

How can I make video accessible?

If you are an academic and starting off with slides which are to be narrated, build accessibility in from the start! Seriously consider the text font, size and colours used on slides. You can read more about this on the Text blog post.

It all starts with design and consideration of accessibility during the design process.

In terms of the visuals, if the intention is to use graphs, images, infographics, etc., please do consider the colours and contrast. More about visual information can be viewed in last weeks post on Visual Information.

It’s not just what goes on the slide, we need to consider where information appears on the slide also, as well as the sequence of information. For example, the title should always be at the top of the slide and then the body text.

However, the sequence of slide elements in PowerPoint are in reverse order as this is how screen readers interact with the content. Screen readers start reading from the bottom of the list in MS PowerPoint (not what you would expect).

Captions vs subtitles, what’s the difference?

Typically, captions and subtitles get used interchangeably but this is a difference in what the two things are. Read on.

Captions are intended to describe the audio within the video (i.e., car comes screeching to a halt or loud music in background). Captions are descriptions that add to the viewing experience.

Interestingly, Ofcom published findings in January 2020, on who uses captions within the UK. They found that 7.5 million people used captions but only 1.5 million of that group were deaf or hard of hearing.

Six million people use captions for:

  • better user/viewing experiences
  • watching video in noisy or sound-sensitive environments
  • non-english speakers benefit from having the words on screen
  • actors speak quickly and mumble or use jargon / brand names, etc.

These were just a few of the reasons non-deaf viewers used captions.

Subtitles are optional for hearing audiences whom may not understand the language within the video. This comes back to the speed of the speech, accents, slang, etc. Subtitles may be available in other languages within a video, this will be purely for the dialogue and will not include descriptive background audio.

Other helpful accessibility features for video

Some video engines allow for adding chapters to timepoints in the video. This might be when topics change and it’s useful to add these chapters in. It means users can skip ahead to different sections quicker.

Playback speed. Most video hosting sites and video playback engines (i.e., VLC) do allow for video to be played at normal speed, faster or slower. Some hosting sites allow for the audio track or transcript to be downloaded.

For keyboard users, it’s important to know the keystrokes required to navigate around a video and if these are available on the hosting site you decide to use. Not everyone uses a mouse or touch-screen to navigate websites and online content.

What do I need to avoid in videos?

Here, you need to have consideration for your audience and any additional needs. Not everyone will be happy with:

  • flashing images
  • lack of contrast
  • poor audio
  • waffle
  • auto-play

Flashing images can induce seizure and this type of content is best avoided. If it cannot be avoided, a disclaimer should be visible to notify users of flashing content or avoid flashing content altogether. By flashing content, we don’t mean camera flashes (like you might see on some news reports). We mean images or GIFs that change colour quickly from light to dark to look as though they are flashing.

Last week, we looked at lack of contrast for visually impaired users. Have a read over last weeks post to learn more about web standards and acceptable use of contrast.

Poor audio can be damaging to the users experience and whilst we don’t all have sound booths to record in, do look for a quiet time and space to avoid extraneous background noise. For example, look for quiet times in the day where you won’t be disturbed and excessive traffic won’t be driving past your window. Albeit, you cannot control it all, you can ask for colleagues / family members to co-operate and have consideration when it comes to recording audio. Additionally, a good quality microphone can help improve audio.

Avoid waffle. Whilst it’s fantastic not to clutter your slide with text, it’s also good practice not to waffle and go off-topic. Stick to the bullet points on your slide and expand upon those. If you have a relevant story, by all means slip it in but remember it needs to be relevant to the teaching material. Keep it short and to the point.

The auto-play feature of video should be turned off. Having videos play automatically can be extremely disorientating and upsetting for some users. Give the user control. People with visual impairment using screen readers sometimes will not be able to hear the screen reader over the audio level of the video. Other users might find the automatic playing of videos upsetting due to the unexpected noise, etc.

Summary

There was probably more to this weeks topic than your first thought. Video is video, right? For the masses, yes.

It’s worth remembering audiences differ drastically and increasing the accessibility of content benefits everyone. As the Ofcom study shows, yes deaf and hard of hearing people use captions/subtitles but so do non-English speakers and quite a few of the hearing community. This allows everyone to engage with the content and in a variety of environments.

When it comes to creating video, do:

  • build accessibility in from the start
  • design
  • consideration of visual content / flashing / animated images
  • screen reader sequence
  • captions / subtitles

And avoid:

  • flashing images
  • lack of contrast
  • poor audio
  • waffle
  • auto-play
Next week

Our blog post next Monday will look at hacking accessibility in the form of audio.

Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are now released at noon on a Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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