How to create accessible video content

Accessibility is more than just closed captions. Here are the steps you'll need to take

By now, you’ve heard (or been told) that your educational video content is required by law to be accessible. Since you’re not the sort to wait until you’re presented with a letter of accommodation, you are eager to get started. What do you need to do?

Educational video usually comes in two basic modes: lecture capture or instructional video. Determine which of these types you are using or intend to use. Lecture capture has a powerful allure: Just walk into a room, teach as usual, and “Presto!” You have a video to use in your online course. This method is fraught with peril when it comes to creating accessible video; ambient room noise, poor audio, bad lighting, and other factors can make lecture capture video a nightmare to make accessible after the fact.

Because of the uncontrolled factors inherent in lecture capture, we recommend that instructors avoid it whenever possible and take the time needed to create pre-produced instructional video. While it’s true that this method takes more time and effort up front, it will result in a more useable and accessible video.

Closed captions are a great start, but there is much more to accessibility than captions. Many learners have visual, cognitive, and attention disorders that captions do not address, and often do not even know to ask for help with these conditions. Whether a disability is reported or not, instructors are still obligated to make sure their video gets its message through to all their viewers.

Preparation tips
Creating accessible video is not fast or easy, but planning for accessibility at the outset will help ease the process. Think of your video like a Hollywood movie, where great attention is paid to lighting, wardrobe, background, microphones, rehearsed performances, and more. All these elements are carefully choreographed to capture a short performance that will (hopefully!) prove to be an enduring classic.

  • Start with an outline or script for your presentation. Include descriptions of the images in your slides and the actions in your script so that people who cannot see the screen and non-native English speakers can understand the actions.
  • Consider your production circumstances. Where will you shoot your video? How will it be lit, and what sort of backdrops are available?
  • Be mindful of the visual content. If you’re showing a slide deck or other text images, use a sans-serif font and contrasting colors to ensure that your content is clear to viewers with visual difficulties. Large, sans-serif fonts in your slides and other on-screen text materials can also aid optical character recognition tools that your video platform may have available.
  • Pay attention to sound. Are there loud air handlers in the room or traffic outside? What microphones do you have available? Poor audio can introduce unneeded difficulty to captioning, so be certain to account for and control how your recording environment sounds.

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