Making accessible video content

TopLine's head of production Jamie Field explains how to make high quality video content that everyone can enjoy.

Video: it’s good stuff. This is generally agreed upon. This is why it dominates the internet: video comprises 65% of universal search results, and visitors are far more likely to watch a short clip than suffer through a wall of text. But obviously, they need to be able to experience it in the first place – and that  isn’t always straightforward.

 

Some of your audience may be unable to experience your video as you intended because they’re visually impaired or hard of hearing. It’s worth correcting this for two reasons: 1) with the options at your disposal, it’s pretty thoughtless not to and 2) their money is as good as anyone else’s, and if you aren’t making the effort to connect with them, it’s your company that’ll miss out.

Here are a few simple ways a production company can make more accessible videos.

1. Audible signposts

It’s important to make sure your script is properly optimized for a visually impaired audience. Often, it’ll be possible to keep on top of what’s happening just by paying attention to the audio – but not always. For example, if a character in your video breaks into a dance routine, there’s no way for a blind viewer to know that unless another character explicitly says “Look, Kevin’s doing the Jitterbug” – which is clunky, and hard to do without compromising the writing. Equally, if there’s information such as on-screen text, a portion of your audience won’t be able to read it.

A cost-effective way to solve this problem is to leave audible signposts in your script for your blind viewers. It’s not a case of being jarring or forcing it; these things certainly don’t have to be intrusive. It’s more about considering what information a visually impaired person won’t have to hand. In this video we made for the Royal National Institute of the Blind, for example, you’ll notice that there are no on-screen graphics indicating names or titles – we had everyone introduce themselves, because the partially-sighted audience would have no idea who Jenny Parker was if we had just subtitled her name.

In fact, if you were paying attention, you’ll notice that nearly every shot matched the words being said in the voiceover – creating a seamless, accessible viewing experience for the blind and fully-sighted audience alike.

2.Lights…Camera…Caption

Have you ever sat through a foreign-language film without subtitles? It’s really difficult to get any notion of what’s happening. It’s generally okay when it’s a movie about kicking people like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but once you go beyond that it’s hard to stay focused.

Unsubtitled video can provide a similarly confusing and alienating experience for the hard of hearing: visuals are important, but they don’t always tell the full story on their own.

It’s true that that writing subtitle tracks and syncing them with your video can be a pain, but it’s generally worth it. Free software such as Aegisub can be a massive help. If you genuinely don’t have the time or resources, making transcripts available – either alongside the clip or on request – is an easy way to make more accessible videos for the hard of hearing.

3. The universal’s here, here for everyone

When we think about universal design (UD), we usually think of stuff that has to be built: wheelchair ramps, disabled toilets, and hand-controlled cars.

But the basic principles of UD – flexibility, perceptibility, equitable use – are entirely applicable to video in the scripting and storyboarding stages. They can help you create a clip that everyone can watch.

The rules of accessible video are also good rules to follow on a creative level. If your visuals are telling a story that’s awkward to describe, there’s a good chance they’re too complex for the average viewer to follow. If your dialogue is talking about things that aren’t relevant to what’s going on on-screen, you probably need to have a rethink.

On the other hand, if you’ve found a way to make your clip understandable through the audio alone, you won’t have to worry about drafting narration. If you can find a way to convey your message entirely with visuals, you’ll have made a better video than you would have otherwise.

Whether you’re making a case study video in American Samoa or an explainer video in London, it’s important that everyone can watch it. TopLine’s production team has created accessible video material for clients such as the RNIB – if you’re interested in commissioning a film for a visually impaired or hard of hearing audience, contact our head of production today! Don’t forget we’re also an inbound marketing agency.

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