In the Netherlands alone, there are 495.000 people deaf and hearing impaired. On top of that, there are 320.000 people blind or visually impaired. That accounts for 4,85 percent of the Dutch population that experience your video in a different way. To make sure that everyone gets to enjoy your video content equally, you can add subtitles, closed captions and descriptive audio tracks.
It often seems self-evident that everyone can watch your videos. However, as the statistics show, this is not the case. Europe aims for a society where everyone is treated equally. This also counts for the online community, which has to be accessible to anyone anywhere, even when it comes to audio and video. That is why they set out new web guidelines in 2016.
The Web Guidelines often require small adjustments. Here are some quick wins.
Whenever you create a video, make sure you add textual description. This can be a general description of anything that is going on in the video: who appears in the video, what is happening and where the events take place. Take as an example a video about a man crossing the street. The short and sweet description can be “man crosses street”.
Some videos are more complex, so they require more in-depth descriptions, taking the shape of a full summary.
By adding a textual alternative, viewers know what they are getting into. But there is another advantage: search engines can understand this text too. Where they have difficulty judging the moving image, they are better at judging text, which allows the search engine to rank your video.
It’s becoming more mainstream: online videos with subtitles. For television, the subtitles are legally required since 2006. To make sure the deaf and hearing impaired get to enjoy television too. For website accessibility the same rules apply: all information has to be comprehensible.
For the deaf and hearing impaired the subtitles have to go beyond the standard: they have to be actual ‘captions’. This means that they go beyond the dialogue by describing all sounds that are important within the video. Think of an episode of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’, where *dramatic music is playing*.
Adding subtitles and/or captions also helps your video SEO. As stated before, search engines prefer written text over moving image. Subtitles and captions put moving image into words, which allows the search engines to rank your video higher.
The deaf and hearing impaired miss the audio, but do enjoy the visuals. When blind or visually impaired people want to watch video, they can only rely on audio. To make the video comprehensible for them, it helps to add audio description.
Audio description is an addition to the dialogue and tells all the important visual details. Think of certain facial expressions or gestures.
Video can also add an extra layer to text. Some texts are quite complex and video can help to clear some things up. Video can also be used to convert text into sign language. However, the video then counts as an alternative, as it does not contain more information than the text.
Some visitors use software that transfers text on a website to speech. Then it would be quite unpleasant if a video started playing with sound, out of the blue. Make sure your website is accessible and that sound in video does not play automatically. The viewer should have the choice to turn the sound on or off by actively pointing out to them that the video contains sound. Another alternative is to let the sound play for only 3 seconds, after which it automatically stops.
The main reason for adhering to the web guidelines, is to give everyone equal treatment online. Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, partially sighted: everyone should have the opportunity to see or hear content online.
An added benefit is the fact that the web guidelines mean that your videos are ranked higher in the results of search engines. This has a direct effect on your reach, because your video is easier to find and therefore reaches more people. So these web guidelines favor both you and the viewer.
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