Making Videos Accessible

What is accessibility?

Accessibility pertains to how users with differences access electronic content. Web content should be designed so that it is compatible with assistive technology. As it relates to our video content, we are primarily concerned with making sure that videos have synchronized closed captions (transcripts are not enough) and audio descriptions.

Before you use a tool to record and publish video, take some time to learn about the available accessibility features. This applies to any third-party applications that are used to add interactive elements to video as well.


Closed Captions

Closed captioning is text that synchronously reflects a video's audio track. Any words spoken in a video should be included in a video's closed captions. If your institution does not provide a captioning service for videos, sites such as YouTube can be used to add captions to videos. If you use the automatic captioning available in YouTube, take the time to edit the captions for accuracy.

Note: There is a prevalent myth that if a transcript is provided for video content, captions are not necessary. See 3PlayMedia's blog post: Why a Transcript is Not Enough to Make Your Videos Compliant with Accessibility Law.


Audio (Video) Descriptions

Audio description is an audio track that attempts to describe the visual aspects of a video (what is happening on screen). There are currently no free  tools available to automatically generate audio descriptions. YouTube does not currently support an additional track for audio descriptions.

The American Council of the Blind provides guidelines for audio descriptions.


Other Accessibility Considerations

While video accessibility is primarily concerned with closed captions and audio descriptions, it is important that any visual elements appearing in your videos are designed with accessibility in mind, as well. Consider these accessibility practices when creating visual elements for your videos:

  • do not exclusively use color to convey information

  • follow WCAG's recommendations on color contrast ratios 

  • do not clutter the screen with information

  • focus one idea at a time



Griffin, E. (2016). Why a transcript is not enough to make videos accessible. Ret. July 27, 2017 from


Hausler, J. (2015). 7 things every designer needs to know about accessibility. Ret. July 27, 2017 from