Veronica With Four Eyes

Creating Inclusive and Accessible Video Lectures For Visually Impaired Audiences

One of the questions I frequently receive from teachers filming videos for their classes is about if there is anything that they can do to create accessible video lectures for students who are blind or that have low vision. While I talk a lot about adding audio description to content to help make it more accessible, the truth is that video lectures do not always need additional audio tracks added, and many can be made accessible from the start. Here are my tips for creating inclusive and accessible video lectures for visually impaired audiences, inclusive of blindness and low vision.

Reasons to create accessible video lectures

So why is it important to create inclusive and accessible video lectures? Here are a few of the ways I benefit from having access to video lectures as a person with low vision:

  • I have trouble following along with on-screen text or code samples as they are often in small print or have poor contrast, and pausing video doesn’t always help
  • Pictures and graphs can also be difficult to see and are often in low resolution when shown on-screen
  • A lot of math and science formulas feature small exponents/subscripts/superscripts that are difficult to see on screen
  • Some lectures focus on visual demonstrations where it may be difficult to see movement or other changes
  • Occasionally, lecture videos may feature strobing or flashing lights that can trigger photosensitivity or animations that can cause vertigo
  • Students who receive existing accommodations for in-person lectures will benefit from having the same accommodations for virtual lectures as well

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Do I need a dedicated audio description track?

Audio description, sometimes referred to as descriptive audio or described video, is an additional narrator track that provides visual information for people who otherwise would not be able to see it. Audio description is provided during natural pauses in dialogue so it does not distract from the video. Occasionally, describers may pause the video themselves and add description if there are no natural pauses available.

If users are creating their own videos, they don’t necessarily need to add a secondary audio description track to make their videos accessible for blind and low vision audiences, because they can incorporate elements of audio description into their videos. However, they will want to make sure that all relevant visual information is described onscreen and that someone would be able to watch the video with their eyes closed and still understand everything that is going on. For users who prefer to have a separate audio track that goes into detail about on-screen visuals, I recommend adding pauses to the video and including extended detailed descriptions or posting the video on YouTube and using the free YouDescribe tool to create descriptions that can be easily accessed.

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Things to include in descriptions

Helpful things to include when creating accessible video lectures for visually impaired audiences consists of the following:

  • Reading necessary text- no need to read word for word, but make sure that all important text is mentioned
  • Line numbers or pages for text if copies of on-screen materials are available
  • Alt text/image descriptions for images- these can be read out loud as images show up on the screen
  • Any relevant movement or gestures on screen, such as describing a demonstration
  • Information displayed in a chart and visual features, i.e describing the shape of a graph or a diagram on the screen
  • Any text that is typed on the screen, i.e when running code
  • Terms such as see, look, or view- these terms are not offensive to audiences with visual impairment

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Things to exclude in descriptions

Things to exclude when creating accessible video lectures for visually impaired audiences consists of the following:

  • Generic phrases such as “this line here” or “this image over there” without further description- give a line number or more descriptive information about an image
  • Descriptions of irrelevant movement or visual distractions, such as speaking with hand gestures without pointing to anything
  • Reading an entire slide of information, unless every word on the slide is important- it helps to announce if the slides are being paraphrased so that viewers aren’t worried about missing out on anything
  • Very quick speech that is difficult to follow- take your time when giving descriptions of items
  • Over-describing visual information such as colors or what certain objects look like, as many people with visual impairments have a mental model for what the color green or a tiger looks like
  • Specifying that descriptions are for audiences with visual impairments- lots of viewers can benefit from additional descriptive information

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Provide copies of on-screen materials, if possible

One of the most useful things that people can do when creating accessible video lectures is to provide a copy on on-screen materials so that audience members can follow along and view the materials using their own assistive technology. I highly recommend using a tool such as the Accessibility Checker built-in to Microsoft Office to help with creating accessible documents and using good design practices when structuring a document.

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Final thoughts

I am so glad to see that more and more teachers are taking the time to learn how to create accessible video lectures for visually impaired audiences, as well as others who can benefit from the enhanced descriptions when taking notes or following along with lectures. I hope that this post on creating inclusive and accessible video lectures is helpful for others as well!

Creating Inclusive and Accessible Video Lectures For Visually Impaired Audiences. How to describe video lectures for audience members who are blind or that have low vision to ensure that all important details are included in the video