How to Make Video and Audio Accessible
Digital video and audio associated with University of Maine System programs or activities, whether live or recorded, must be accessible to persons with disabilities when:
- Provided to the general public, such as via a website
- Provided to a broad population, such as a campus, the student body or a department, especially when the population is known to include persons with affecting disabilities
- The Equal Opportunity office, Human Resources or a campus disability services office has approved a related request
Digital video and audio are made accessible by adding accurate captions (live or recorded) and audio description (if applicable). Videos hosted on a website should have a transcript, as well.
We have provided a list of Live Event Captioning (CART) providers who can add accurate captions to your live online events.
Please note that digital recordings (Kaltura, Youtube, etc.) also require accurate captions. You can correct the automatic captions yourself or use a third-party service to provide captions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Accessibility for video and audio
Video (moving images) or audio (sound) content delivered through a web browser, computer software or other information technology often present barriers to persons with disabilities. Examples of video and audio include:
- Youtube videos
- Zoom or Google Meet webinars, meetings or recordings
- Kaltura video recordings
- Recordings embedded in Blackboard or Brightspace courses
- MP3 audio files
Digital video and audio, whether live or recorded, can present significant barriers to persons with disabilities. This content is sometimes referred to as “streaming video and audio.” In order to be accessible, digital video must:
- Include accurate, time-synced, text-based equivalents, such as captions, of spoken language contained in the stream
- Include audible descriptions of visual-only elements such as graphics, charts, images, etc, that are not included in the spoken portion
- Recordings must be accompanied by a written transcript in accessible digital format (on a web page, in a text-only file or accessible PDF)
- Live audio must be accompanied by live captions (typically delivered through a web browser)
- Accessibility requirements apply to both Live and Recorded content.
- All content made available to the general public must be accessible.
- Content made available to groups that are known to include persons with disabilities must be accessible. For example, every University of Maine System campus is known to include persons who are deaf or significantly hard of hearing. Hence video and audio content made available to an entire campus, whether recorded, or for a live meeting or forum, must be accessible.
- Content that is a component of other university programs, courses or activities that includes person(s) with a disability, for whom an accommodation has been authorized by Human Resources or Disability Services, must be accessible.
- Student-access only content must be accessible immediately upon approval of a disability accommodation request. Such approvals are made by a campus’s Student Disability Services department after a student makes a request for a disability accommodation. Such a request applies to an entire semester and hence once the request is received, all course content, that is available to students without a disability, must be immediately accessible to those with a disability.
- If your materials are not entirely accessible, university policy requires that you have a practical plan for making them accessible immediately upon receipt of a request.
- It is estimated that it takes two to five times as long as the video length to produce accurate captions assuming that you are not starting from a script. Given this, a one hour video lecture will take from two to five hours to manually caption. Keep this in mind when planning how you will respond to an approved accommodation.
- Live video and audio can only be accurately transcribed by a qualified transcriptionist. If you think you will have an accommodation in a course with Live video or audio, such as through Zoom, contact your campus student disability office as soon as possible to arrange for a transcriptionist.
I have university-related videos posted on Youtube, or another platform, that are available to anyone in the world to view. Do they need to be accessible?
Yes, publicly-available videos, related to a university program, course or activity, must be accessible, whether or not a request from a person with a disability has been received.
- Public meetings
- Class meetings where a participant has an approved accommodation
- Campus-wide forums, meetings, webinars to which the entire campus is invited
- Any online meeting where a person with a hearing-related, or certain cognitive disabilities, is invited
- It is not necessary to caption an online meeting where it is known that none of the invited participants have a disability that affects their ability to fully participate. For example, department meetings that do not include someone with a disability do not need to be captioned.
- Live online course meetings that do not include a person with an affecting disability do not need to be captioned.
- Live online meetings where participants are required to register and they have been advised when registering, sufficiently in advance, that captions or other accommodations are provided upon request and with no more than three business days notice required to make such a request.
Recordings of meetings need to be captioned if they will be made available to the general public or a person with an affecting disability.
Does Digital Video or Audio need to be accessible if their use is optional in a course or other activity?
Optional course, or for that matter “work”, related content creates opportunities that must be equally available to persons with disabilities. Whether or not the content is “required” is irrelevant to whether a person with a disability must be provided the same opportunity as someone without a disability.
Making live digital video and audio accessible:
Live Digital Video and Audio requires a CART transcriptionist to capture and transcribe spoken content for display in real-time. “Live” includes campus events, symposiums, live webinars, class sessions, political forums, etc. The transcript is displayed to audience members, as it is created, within the meeting or streaming application, or on a small companion web page that can be viewed alongside the stream. The University of Maine System has relationships with several CART providers. Arranging for CART services requires lead time for the provider to schedule a transcriptionist (one to several days depending on the provider). There are currently no “automatic”, “machine” or “Artificial Intelligence” live captions that meet speed and accuracy requirements for accessibility.
Recorded Digital Video requires an accurate transcript be displayed in time with the material such as with closed captions on television programs. Recorded Video also requires audio description of any visual elements that are not also captured in the audio portion and therefore show in the captions.
Both Kaltura & Youtube automatically caption all uploaded videos. Unfortunately their transcriptions are not entirely accurate. Both platforms provide a mechanism for you to correct the machine captions. Uncorrected machine captions are not considered accessible.
Third party captioning and correction services are also available for a fee.
- The accuracy of captions affects their accessibility. Typically any captions that are less than 97% accurate do not provide an equal, and therefore accessible, experience.
- The accessibility features of Digital Video and Audio must be integrated with the stream in a way that makes them as useful, and as easy to use, as the content is for a person without the disability. For example, some automatic captions for Live Digital Video include human correction, but the corrections take 10 or 15 seconds to appear and therefore they do not meet accessibility requirements.
- Closed captioning that is optionally displayed (can be turned off) within the video display is acceptable.
- Captions of meetings or forums with multiple speakers should include a way to identify what is spoken by which speaker.
- Simultaneous transcripts, which are not displayed in the same window as the video, are acceptable only if they are both:
- In time-sync with the video content and pause along with the video per the viewer’s actions.
- Are displayed in such a way that the viewer can see both the video and the transcripts at the same time without blocking other necessary visual content.
- “Static Transcripts” that require the viewer to find their place in the transcript, are provided only in paper format, or are not viewable along with the stream, are not accessible.