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National Distance Learning Week and Video Accessibility

By: Aylin Dunham
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It’s National Distance Learning Week

This week AST is celebrating National Distance Learning Week, from November 4th to the 8th. We’re truly grateful for the community of accessibility advocates that have made great strides in video accessibility this past year and helped to improve distance learning and education for all. We’re also grateful for all of the organizations that have started to implement video accessibility in their departments within the past year, working with us to expand access online for their users. As part of our celebration, we thought it would be great to help remind you about a couple of ways you can keep it up and keep improving your practices:

Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Video Accessibility Practices

1. Do all of your videos, both on web pages and your social media channels such as YouTube, have both captioning and audio description?

The most important first step in your video accessibility practices is to evaluate your video content. Does your video have captioning? What about audio description? Organizations should strive to caption and describe all of their content in order to make it accessible to all. For organizations needing to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, remember that Section 508 now requires audio description for video as part of their WCAG 2 requirement. At AST, we have an innovative Extended Audio Description service that allows users to request a verbal description track of relevant visual elements that appear in the video and that are essential for comprehension, but are not communicated through the video’s existing audio.

2. If you’ve already contacted a captioning provider, does the vendor use professional transcribers, rather than crowd-sourcing or speech recognition, to create the captions? What steps are taken to ensure high quality captions and audio descriptions?

When deciding on a captioning provider, it’s important to evaluate its practices to determine which one will have the best quality results for your distance learning applications. Captioning vendors that employ crowd-sourcing, speech recognition, and inexpensive offshore labor may find that the quality of their captions and descriptions falls short. Captioning vendors that use these resources may be able to produce a low-cost captioning solution for their clients, but a closer analysis reveals that these extremely low-cost solutions tend to have low quality results. At AST, quality is our top priority; we use trained transcribers recruited from the most demanding environments to prepare your transcripts, in order to ensure our high accuracy rates. Furthermore, our captions and audio description results comply with the standards established in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 Level AA.

3. Have you evaluated your video player for its accessibility? There are actually 38 success criteria that you need to comply with to have WCAG 2 Level AA conformance, and virtually all of them are relevant to your website’s video content and video players.

Make sure to evaluate your video players for its accessibility criteria. It’s important to choose a video player with accessibility features like captioning and audio description display, keyboard compatibility, and interactive transcript features. One of the most impressive features in AST’s toolset is the AST Smart Player. Our video player has interactive transcript features that leverages transcript, caption and audio description data to create a more engaging experience. Viewers have the ability to click on individual words in the transcript to jump to the specific point in the video, or look up the word in a dictionary or encyclopedia. The CaptionSync Smart Player incorporates Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles by providing both additional representations of the video content and additional ways to engage with the content.

Image of CaptionSync Smart Player displaying captioning and audio description features.

4. How easily does your captioning and audio description solution integrate with your video platform and your departmental workflow?

If you have a platform where you post your videos, consider implementing an integration in order to make captioning and describing your videos easier. CaptionSync has a number of captioning and audio description integration solutions that may be useful for you. We have integrated with numerous lecture capture systems and video platforms, making the captioning workflow from these applications extremely simple. By taking advantage of these integrations, users can automate most or all of the workflow associated with having content submitted to CaptionSync and integrating the results back with the media.

Image showing integration overview starting with the video file being sent from the video platform to CaptionSync to transcriber and sending the caption file back to the video platform

5. How long does it take to provide high-quality captions and audio descriptions?

Ensuring customer happiness is fundamental to having a great captioning solution. At AST, we interact with our clients on an ongoing basis and get to know their constantly evolving video accessibility needs. Part of ensuring those needs includes having multiple turnaround times, and using a captioning vendor with varying turnaround times for your projects may be an important factor in your organization. If your organization frequently produces or uses new media, you may need a quicker turnaround to ensure that videos are accessible. Similarly, if you have a large archive or backlog of older content that needs captioning, you might consider using a captioning solution with a longer turnaround. With CaptionSync, we provide professional quality transcription and captioning with multiple turnaround times to suit the needs of varying clients, including quick 1-day turnaround times and longer 4-day turnaround times.

6. Does your captioning and audio description service provider have a support team that will answer your video accessibility questions quickly and thoroughly?

Having a captioning vendor with excellent support services is extremely important to implementing a great captioning solution. Look for a captioning vendor with an extensive Support Center with FAQs, knowledge base articles, best practice articles, and tutorial videos. At AST, we offer all of these options, including a search functionality with our Support Center that is provided to help users locate the information they need. Furthermore, CaptionSync users can also submit support tickets to have their specific questions addressed directly with AST.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are simply trying to be proactive and move your organization gracefully toward better accessibility in 2019 or trying to implement a large-scale video accessibility solution, it’s time to start asking yourself questions about your video accessibility practices. If you have any video accessibility questions or need any assistance, please contact us. We’re here to help make your distance learning practices better!