Video captioning (Part 2 of 2): Win/Win for accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO)
By Holly Nielsen, Social Media Manager and Webmaster, Human Ability and Accessibility
Captioning videos for accessibilityHave you ever tried to watch a video without speakers, or with your sound off? Annoying, isn’t it? You might be able to catch a little of what’s going on, but you know that you’re missing most of the action. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, non-native language speakers, using mobile devices, or in a noisy area run into this problem constantly. It’s estimated that the majority of videos on the Internet are not captioned, and therefore inaccessible to these audiences.
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) defines captioning at its most basic level:
Captioning is the process of converting the audio content of a television broadcast, webcast, film, video, CD-ROM, DVD, live event, or other productions into text and displaying the text on a screen, monitor, or other visual display system.
There are two elements to making videos accessible.
- The first element is the captions themselves. For a full explanation of the requirements for creating captions, see the IBM web accessibility checklist
Checkpoint 1.2a: Captions,
or the WGBH,
NCAM Guideline H: Multimedia.
Captions can be open or closed: Open captions are burned into the image, similar to subtitles, which the user cannot turn off. Closed captions are a separate data stream that is synchronized with the multimedia. The user can turn these captions on or off. (IBM has developed an enterprise-level research technology, IBM AbilityLab Media Captioner and Editor, which automatically creates open captions and transcripts.)
- The second element is a text
version (often called a transcript) of the video content. The IBM web checklist,
Checkpoint 1.2b: Audio and Video
(Prerecorded), describes the requirements for creating a text version
of the content that can be accessed by anyone. It was created as a way for
blind or visually impaired users to access the visual information, and for
hearing impaired or deaf users to access the audio information in the content.
A full text alternative describes everything that is happening in the video. In addition to the visual information, the text alternative also includes a transcript of all dialogue, and also textual representations of all of the video, audio, and interaction from the video.
The sweet spot: Where videos, accessibility, and SEO meet
As a competitive advantage, captioning your videos is a winning strategy – both for promoting your messages, products, and services to a much broader audience by enabling more of your customers to find your content, and by making the content accessible to all of your customers, regardless of disability, device, or native language.