Guidelines for Accessible Audio and Video

WCAG 2.0 guidelines for audio and video included within websites are the basis for universal accessibility standards, and the same principles can be applied to audio and video utilized and distributed within our academic setting as well. Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act is currently being refreshed to more fully align with the WCAG 2.0 Standards, so a proactive approach to compliance with these standards at Texas A&M University is encouraged.

  1. If utilizing audio files, a text transcript or other text-based material should be provided.
    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.1—"An alternative for time-based media is provided that presents equivalent information for prerecorded audio-only content."

  2. If video files are utilized, captions or a synchronized text transcript should be provided.
    NOTE: Captions also benefit non-native speakers, users with audio disabled or viewers watching a video with poor quality audio.
    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.2—"Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such."

  3. Video files should be embedded or displayed in a player that can be accessed by a screen reader via keyboard commands. Accessible players include QuickTime, RealPlayer, iTunes, YouTube and properly configured JW Player.
    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.1—"Make all functionality available from a keyboard."

  4. Videos that include visual information critical to comprehension should include a description of events or images for visually impaired audiences. For example, a screencast of a software product should name the buttons and commands being used, not just say "click here".
    WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.3—An alternative for time-based media or audio description of the prerecorded video content is provided for synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.

  5. A lengthy piece of audio or video should not be played by default when entering a page. Instead, the user should be able to click the play button to start the file. This provision prevents audio from interfering with screenreader audio.

NOTE: Transcripts are also beneficial to users who may not be able to access audio on their computers. This is a very frequent situation.

Did you know?

  • In the United States, about 55 million people have a disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • About 1 in 5 Americans have some kind of disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • The percentage of people affected by disabilities is growing as our population ages.
  • Two popular, free screen readers are VoiceOver (Mac OS and iOS) and NVDA (Win).
  • Good accessibility practices can improve the search ranking of your website.
  • Form fields without labels can cause problems for some assistive technology users.
  • Low color contrast makes content difficult to see, especially for users with low vision.
  • Documents linked on a website need to be accessible too (e.g., PDF and Word files).
  • Audio content, like podcasts, need transcripts for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Online videos should be captioned for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Using HTML tags correctly is very important for accessibility.
  • Descriptive link text helps make a website more accessible. Avoid using "Click here" or "Read more."
  • A "screen reader" is an application that reads content aloud to a user.
  • There is no "alt tag" in HTML. "Alt" is an attribute used with the img tag.
  • HTML uses the alt attribute to provide a text description of an image.
  • Alt text should describe an image, if the purpose of the image is to convey information.
  • If an image is a link, the alt text for the image should explain where the link goes.
  • If an image is only being used for decoration, the alt text should be null (i.e., alt="").
  • If a table has headers, using header tags (<th>) will make the table more accessible.
  • An accessible website is one that can be navigated and understood by everyone.