Sign language, caption and audio description

We get a lot questions about accessibility in video right now. It is gratifying that our clients and others are interested in making different types of content accessible, but there seems to be some confusion about what the law actually requires. Therefore, we have put together a small manual to help you out.

Sign language

For most people who are deaf from birth, sign language is the mother tongue. People who become deaf in adulthood can often read well, but for individuals who have never heard, it can be very difficult to understand written information. It's a foreign language! Imagine that important information would be written in a language you are not familiar with. Even for those interested in languages, it would probably be time consuming, hard or even hopelessly difficult. Therefore, it is important to offer information in sign language.

What does the law say?

The Web Accessibility Directive does not require sign language.
There are national regulations covering sign language in some EU member states.

Captioning

Audio and video are important formats that work well for many user groups. People who for various reasons find it difficult to read often prefer to get information by listening and/or seeing. Therefore, it is important to offer information through audio and video, but of course, it must work for everyone. For people with a hearing impairment, what you publish in the form of audio tracks or video needs an alternative in the form of text. Captioned video may also help persons with another mother tongue and users  who for various reasons surf with the sound turned off.

Many of our clients in public sector have loads of text, but very little audio and video on their websites. If there is a written text with equivalent content as the one shown in the video, you don’t need to caption the video. But it is of course a totally different experience to read a text compared to see a captioned film.

Tip:
Let the captions be optional, so users who need text can turn it on and users who don’t need text don’t become distracted by it. This way, the experience is better for everyone.

What does the law say?

The Web Accessibility Directive sets requirements for text alternatives of pre-recorded material, not live broadcasts. Pre-recorded audio and video published after September 23, 2020 must meet the requirements for text alternatives. If the content of the video or audio is an equivalent alternative to text, the requirement for captions is fulfilled.

Audio description

If things happen in a video that doesn’t appear in the dialogue, you must describe this to users who can’t see. This is made via audio description, which is an audio track describing what is happening visually, for example reading what is written on a sign in the video. If there is a narrator who describes what is happening in the movie, or if those who speak in the film read out all the signs and the like, no audio description is needed. Many of our clients have videos where what is shown doesn’t add anything to the content itself, it is mostly a person looking into the camera and talking. Then there is no need for an audio description. But remember to read out everything that is shown in the video and describe what happens visually; "I put the compost bag in the small recycling bin, and my other garbage in the large dust-bin."

What does the law say?

The Web Accessibility Directive requires audio description of pre-recorded material, not live broadcasts. Pre-recorded video published after September 23, 2020 must comply with the requirements for audio description. If the content of the video is an equivalent alternative to text, the requirement for audio description is fulfilled.

Are you still in doubt? Feel free to contact us and we promise to answer your questions.

Contact

Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer

susanna.laurin@funka.com (Susanna Laurin)

+46 8 555 770 61 (Susanna Laurin)