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  • Writer's pictureJessie Moser

Creating Sections 508 and 504 Accessible Videos

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Making Web content and videos accessible to people with disabilities is the law in the United States. Ensuring that posted videos are accessible does require some planning ahead of time. Taking steps from day one will save you time and money. To create a video that is accessible, you’ll need to incorporate captions, audio descriptions, and an accessible video player.

Captions are the audio parts of your video that appear as text at the appropriate time and give access to people who are hearing impaired or deaf. These are the words that pop up on screen while someone is talking. Captions can either be closed or open. The main difference between the two is that closed captions can be toggled on or off, while open captions cannot. Closed captions are created on a separate track from the video, while open captions are burned into a video and are permanently on the screen. Captions are governed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Audio descriptions are recorded descriptions of what is happening in the video at specific points in time. This is usually a script that gets generated and then turned into an audio file. These are necessary to explain to the blind or hard of sight what is going on in the video outside of the audio. Audio descriptions are usually added in a second audio file and require an accessible web player for proper use. The easiest way to create audio descriptions in your video is to have your subjects identify themselves and their surroundings instead of only showing their name on the screen. This is not always possible though if text, or a different video, is being shown on the screen while someone is talking. If there are not enough audio pauses in your original video, the audio description will have to be inserted into a pause long enough to explain what is going on. When you create the original video, try to leave natural pauses so that the description can play seamlessly alongside the original audio. If not, the video will take significantly longer to watch for the hard of sight community. This is governed by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

An accessible video player is essential to uploading a compliant video. Video players must support three requirements to be considered 508-compliant. They must be able to incorporate accessible features like captioning and audio descriptions (for those that are deaf or blind), keyboard navigation features (for those who have difficulty using a mouse), and speech recognition (for those not able to use a keyboard or a mouse). A video player can either be embedded or stand-alone. An embedded player that works with your Web browser and is fixed on your website. A stand-alone player is one that you download or install, and it plays outside your Web browser. This is governed by both Section 504 and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

There are various ways of going about creating an accessible video to post online. Refer to your country’s laws to ensure you are posting compliant videos. Need help with website or document accessibility? Reach out to find out how we can simplify your accessibility journey. It’s not just the law, it’s the right thing to do!



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