Skip to main content

Video accessibility

Make videos accessible

Make videos accessible

New accessibility regulations came into force for public sector bodies on 23 September 2018. Full name Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. These require us to make our website or mobile app more accessible, so UK public sector organisations need to comply. The standards state that:

  • all new video content created must be fully accessible
  • all videos must have subtitles or captions available
  • a transcript needs to be supplied for video and audio content
  • any existing content made before 23 September 2018 that provides a service (for example, a video guide on how to do something) will need to comply with these standards by 23 September 2020
  • Learn more about the accessibility regulations on the GOV.UK website.

Who is responsible?

The video creator and/or commissioner is responsible for making sure video meets accessibility requirements.

Working with third-parties

When commissioning, make the agency/partner aware of accessibility regulations and your duty as a public sector organisation with regards to The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Conformance Level AA).

To make it clear that meeting WCAG 2.1 AA standards is part of their contractual obligations and this should be included in your procurement contract framework.

  • Many people who are Deaf can read text well. They get the audio information from transcripts or captions. Some people prefer sign language.
  • Some people who are hard of hearing like to listen to the audio to hear what they can, and have captions to fill in what they can’t hear adequately.
  • Some people who have difficulty processing auditory information also use captions. Many use transcripts so they can read at their own pace.
  • Some people who are blind or have low vision can’t see videos well or at all. They use description of visual information to understand what’s going on visually. (Description is called audio description, video description, or described video.)
  • Some people who are Deaf-blind use a screen reader and braille to read descriptive transcripts that include the audio and visual information as text.
  • Some people cannot focus and comprehend auditory or visual information when there are changing visuals. For most videos, they also need descriptive transcripts.
  • Some people cannot use their hands and use speech recognition software to operate their computer, including the media player. And people who are blind need the media player to work without a mouse.
  • Some people use multiple accessibility features simultaneously. For example, someone might want captions, description of visual information as text, and description in audio.

Subtitles are only used as text for dialogue. They are often used to understand different languages.

Closed captions include text for dialogue, and they are also used for noises and sounds that are included in your audio, such as a crash or a phone ringing. This is the option for people who are hearing impaired.

Closed captions can be turned on and off, while open captions are burnt onto the video itself and can't be turned off.

Open captions (hard burned) mean the text is written on top of the image permanently. This is sometimes referred to as hard burned. They cannot be turned on or off and they only support one language per video.

There are accessibility issues surrounding open captions. Open captions on a video is the equivalent of saving a word file as a JPEG image. It cannot be interacted with once rendered and cannot be identified by accessibility tools. They cannot be automatically translated either. This restricts international audiences who prefer or require captions in an alternative language.

The use of subtitles, closed captions or open captions will depend on your content.

Examples of good practice 

Requirements for Captions and Transcripts

Audio Only For pre-recorded audio, transcripts are required. An example of ‘Audio-only’ recording is a podcast! [WCAG Level A]
Video-only (no audio content) For pre-recorded video that does not contain audio, a descriptive transcript OR audio description is required. [WCAG Level A]
Video with Audio content For pre-recorded videos that contain audio, captions are required. Examples of video with audio content include lecture recordings, pre-recorded micro-lectures, marketing campaigns, welcome video etc. [WCAG Level A]


Exemptions from the Regulations

It is worth noting that some materials are exempt from the accessibility regulations. The regulations do not require the institution to fix the following types of content:
Old Content Pre-recorded audio and video created before 23 September 2020 which is not being used in current or future modules
Live Audio or Video Any live audio and/or video unless a recording is kept online for 14 days or more and becomes part of course content. If so, it is no longer considered “live” so captions and audio descriptions must be added within 2 weeks (from 23 September 2020).

Extracting audio from a video

Using either of the popular editing programs Audacity (free) or Adobe Audition (subscription based), extracting audio is as easy as dragging the file into the program, then performing a Save As on the resulting file. Audacity (free) also works but requires the installation of a the FFmpeg library first (Windows version) or (Mac Version). Other video-based programs Adobe Premiere (subscription based) or Final Cut Pro (paid app) may have the ability to export a video as “audio only,” so that is also option.

Here are general instructions for using an audio editing program:

  1. Import the video. Drag the file into the program window, or choose “Open…” and choose the file. The file should display in the Files pane on the left side of the screen, perhaps after a few seconds of processing. (Note: if the program asks you to specify the resolution of the file before it can import it, make sure you have the latest version of the software, or try with a different program.)
  2. Save a new file. Choose “Save As…” and the Save As dialogue should open. In Audacity, choose “Export Audio.”
  3. Confirm file type and save. Specify the resolution and file type you want to save as. These should be autofilled with the properties of the audio on the video file. As long as they are either WAV or MP3, you can save them with these default options. If another option is shown, change the file type to WAV. In Audition, it’s “Wave PCM.” In Audacity, “WAV (Microsoft).”
  4. Follow audio file protocol. After you have saved the audio track as an audio file.

Transcribe your recordings in Office 365

  1. Make sure you're signed in to Microsoft 365.
  2. Go to Home > Dictate dropdown > Transcribe.
  3. In the Transcribe pane, select Upload audio.
  4. Choose an audio file from the file picker.

For further information and guidance visit the Microsoft support article - Transcribe your recordings

Creating subtitles in YouTube

  1. Sign in to YouTube Studio.
  2. From the left-hand menu, select Subtitles.
  3. Click the video that you'd like to edit.
  4. Click ADD LANGUAGE and select your language.
  5. Under subtitles, click ADD.

For further information and guidance visit the Google support article - Add subtitles and captions

Further information