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Getting started with accessible video

14 October 2016

10% of the UK is dyslexic. There are almost two million people in the UK living with sight loss and one in six have some form of hearing loss. People with disabilities make up a sizable community of web users.

Accessibility in video and animation content has never been more important. Answering the needs of your audience is vital – not just to engage a larger group of people, but also because it improves the return you’ll get from your investment. The more accessible your content is, the more likely the right audiences will view it. 

Online video consumption is at an all-time high, so it makes sense to think about creating content that’s more accessible. Here are some of the ways you can improve the accessibility of your current videos.


Publishing a text transcript of your video is crucial for accessibility. Your audience has the option to read the transcript if they are unable to access the audio or video. This is especially helpful for deaf/blind users, who can put the transcript through devices like refreshable braille display to understand what’s happening in the video. 

Because search engines cannot watch videos, transcripts can also help index your content online. This study for the popular radio show, This American Life, suggests publishing transcripts online has helped the show’s SEO.  

There are several great speech-to-text programs that can recognise the speech in your video and translate into a transcript for you. If you’re using Windows or Mac OSX, they’re even already built in for you. Inqscribe (£76.55) is one of the highest rated automated transcription services on the market, which also holds a built-in subtitle generator. 

Subtitles and closed captions

Captions are transcripts that have been timed and inserted into a video and are a popular addition to online videos. They open up viewership to those who are hard of hearing, but also allow the rest of your audience to watch your video in situations where hearing is hard, such as a noisy environment or when they need to be quiet. 85% of Facebook videos are watched without the sound so captioning is now becoming essential.  

Platforms like YouTube and Facebook allow you to create subtitles and closed captions in platform. 

Audio descriptions 

For those who have problems with their sight, audio descriptions can bring a video to life. The name says it all: audio descriptions describe aloud what’s visible on the screen. This is especially important if your video has information on screen that is not referenced by the audio. 

The audio descriptor could be thought of as the narrator of your video. It’s the voice that sets the scene, reveals your character’s actions and facial expressions, and gives viewers vital information about the your video’s message that could potentially be missed otherwise. 

Here’s an example from Google of a video with audio descriptions with the original.

British Sign Language

For deaf people whose primary language is BSL, including a BSL interpretation is a useful way to get your message across. 

This can be accomplished by having a version of your video with an interpreter signing in the corner of the frame. Having a version of your video with BSL included can allow those who sign to engage more and better understand your content. 

Macmillan Cancer Support has interpreted a number of its videos with this in mind. The video below is one way you can include a BSL interpreter in your project.

Making your videos accessible is a small investment for a potentially huge return in an engaged, diverse audience. From supporting those with a disability to providing alternate ways for people to consume your message, these simple additions to your videos can help expand the reach of your video content. 

What steps have you taken to create more accessible video content? Tell us in the comments below. 

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Eoin Dowdall

founder, Kartoffel Films

Eoin is the founder Kartoffel Films and has produced 100's of films and animation for the charity sector. A specialist in creating powerful memorable stories and communication.