Make your video content accessible to a wide range of people by providing captions and a descriptive transcript.
In addition, when you are providing high-stakes information:
- you must provide an audio description for pre-recorded videos
- it’s strongly recommended you provide a sign language translation for both pre-recorded and live videos.
Remember to add a
title attribute if you are embedding your video using an
Why make videos accessible?
Recognised as a basic human right
Find out why the accessibility of information for everyone is a human right.
Required by the NZ Government Web Standards
You need to meet the requirements for videos in the NZ Government Web Accessibility Standard 1.1:
- always require captions and a descriptive transcript
- require an audio description as well, if the video content presents high-stakes information or services.
Live videos require captions if the video content presents high-stakes information.
Improved usability and SEO
If you add a descriptive transcript, it makes the important topics and keywords in your video easier and faster to find, scan and listen to, enabling video content to be:
- indexed by search engines
- searchable by end users
- translated into a foreign language (creating a transcript is the first step)
- played out loud to people using assistive technology at a rate much faster than most humans speak — in the same way a sighted and hearing person might watch and listen to a video much faster by increasing playback speed.
Useful to everyone
Captions and transcripts make videos more accessible to everyone, not just disabled people. For example, they are useful for people who:
- have problems streaming the video
- want to watch the content silently
- prefer to scan the content rather than watch the entire video
- are not native speakers of English.
Captions are text representing spoken words, such as dialogue or narration, and other meaningful sounds in the video.
The captions are time-indexed, synchronised to appear on the video screen at the same time as the words are spoken.
If more than 1 person is speaking, the captions should identify who is speaking.
They are made available as either open captions (always on) or closed captions (can be turned on and off). Unless there is a reason for making captions open, provide closed captions to give people the choice.
Here are 2 examples of videos with captions:
- Video with Captions — Web Accessibility Initiative — W3C
- How to file a GST return through myIR - YouTube
Additional auditory information in captions
Captions should include any sounds or tones of voice that are meaningful in the video. These types of captions should be set in square brackets, for example:
- [laughs], [sighs], [whistles]
- [window slams], [sound of explosion], [doorbell rings]
- [sarcastically] — used to indicate the tone of voice, if this is necessary to understand the meaning behind the words
- [overlapping speech] — used if people are talking over each other
- [inaudible] — used when speech is indiscernible or inaudible
- [background chatter], [birds singing], [silence] — used when there is a significant break in audio and nothing is spoken for a while.
How captions make a video more accessible
Captions provide access to video content for people who:
- have a hearing impairment
- have an auditory processing disorder
- have a learning (intellectual) disability
- are not fluent in the language spoken in the video — reading the captions while listening to the audio improves comprehension
- are in a noisy environment where they can’t hear the video properly
- are in a public environment where they don’t want to make any noise, like in a library.
Captions are also helpful for developing literacy, both in children and adults.
How to create closed captions
For a pre-recorded video to have closed captions, it needs to have a caption file.
A caption file is a text file that contains:
- the text of the spoken words
- descriptions of meaningful sounds (provided in lower case letters and set within square brackets)
- timecodes for when each line of text should be displayed so that they appear at the same time as the sound occurs in the video.
The most common caption file format is SubRip (.srt).
You can use a free or paid-for service to generate a caption file for you.
If your video is hosted on YouTube.com you can create the captions file for free.
- Turn on automatic captioning.
- Check the autogenerated captions.
- Edit the captions to make sure they accurately describe what is said and include the important sounds.
There are other free tools available, such as:
If you have your own video hosting service and custom video player, make sure they support captions.
If you prefer, you can pay a service to create the caption file for you.
These are some examples of services that provide video captioning:
For an example of cost, 3PlayMedia charges US$3 per minute of video.
Live captioning is done in real-time by a trained stenographer using a special keyboard.
More information on captions
A descriptive transcript is a full text equivalent of the content in a video — that is, of both the audio and the visual information that is essential for understanding the video.
As a text alternative, it exists as a separate file, outside of the video file. It can be accessed by search engines and assistive technology.
A descriptive transcript is not just a copy of the captions. The idea is that it can be read instead of watching / listening to the video, without losing any of the important information.
Here are 2 examples of descriptive transcripts for videos:
- How your pension plan works — Government of Canada
- Colours with good contrast — World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Additional visual information in descriptive transcripts
In addition to the spoken words and important sounds in the video, a descriptive transcript includes meaningful visual elements like:
- words that appear on the screen without being spoken — for example, the written words on a sign, like ‘Caution, enter at your own risk’
- where the scene is taking place — for example, in a cave
- who is in the scene and whats happening — for example, Jane and Rex climbing a rock wall side by side.
How a descriptive transcript makes a video more accessible
Descriptive transcripts provide access to video content for people who:
- are hearing or visually impaired
- prefer to read, scan or search the text version of the video’s content
- don’t have enough mobile data to stream the content.
For people who are deafblind, the descriptive transcript will be their only access to the content of the video. This enables the content to be translated by braille devices.
How to create descriptive transcripts
You can use the caption file for the video as the basis for creating your descriptive transcript.
If you used YouTube.com to generate the caption file, you’ll need to download it from the site.
When writing the descriptive text to accompany the dialogue in the video, imagine you’re writing a screenplay for a film. Make sure you include text descriptions of any and all meaningful visual information communicated in the video.
More information on descriptive transcripts
An audio description is an additional audio narrative in a video that describes and gives context for essential visual information related to:
- characters — for example, “Anne, a tall, elegant woman in a black dress, appears anxious.”
- actions — for example, “Rick shrugs.”
- scene changes — for example, “Anne walks into the kitchen.”
- on-screen text — for example, “The note on the table says, ‘Call the police if I’m not back by midnight!’ ”
When turned on, the audio description plays in the gaps between the programme’s dialogue.
Here are some examples of videos providing an audio description:
How an audio description makes a video more accessible
Audio descriptions provide access to video content for people who:
- are visually impaired
- can’t keep their eyes on the screen because they are doing something — for example, cooking
- want help keeping track of details in the story.
How to create an audio description
Before a video is produced
It’s cheaper and easier to create an audio description before a video is produced.
Adding an audio description to an existing video
If the video has already been produced, you will need to write the audio description and narrate, record and integrate the audio description in new audio and/or video files.
Alternatively, if the media player you are using supports text-based audio description that is read aloud, you can create a Video Text Track (VTT) file with the timed descriptions.
If you don’t have these skills and tools, you can pay a service to create the audio description for you using:
- writers to create the description with a time-coded transcript, and
- human voice actors or synthesised speech to deliver the description.
These are some examples of services that provide audio descriptions for videos:
More information on audio descriptions
New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is New Zealand’s third official language, along with English and te reo Māori. It is used by people in the Deaf community to communicate.
For many Deaf people, English is their second language and they are not fluent in it.
Here are some examples of videos providing a NZSL translation, which were created by EyeFilms:
How sign language makes a video more accessible
Sign language provides access to video content for people who are Deaf and find reading English more difficult.
How to provide sign language in a video
For advice on NZSL translations for video, contact Deaf Aotearoa.
More information on Deaf culture and NZSL
title attributes, if video published in an
titleattributes, if video published in an
If you are publishing a video from YouTube, Vimeo or another video-sharing platform, you are likely to be embedding the video in your web page using an HTML
title attribute specifies extra information about the video
<iframe> element it’s associated with.
title attribute to a video
<iframe> meets WCAG 2.1 success criteria 4.1.2:
Here’s an example a
title attribute that’s been added to the
<iframe>, informing us that this is a YouTube video about human rights which is filmed entirely in sign language:
title attribute makes a video more accessible
By giving the
title attribute that has a short, meaningful description, people using assistive technologies like screen readers can identify the content or purpose of the
<iframe>. In the case of a video embedded in an
<iframe>, they will understand that it is a video and what it’s about.
How to create a
title attribute for a video
Modify the HTML
<iframe> code to include an appropriate
title attribute that has a short meaningful description.