Elevate Your Video Content By Making It Accessible

Accessibility is an absolute necessity for all video content marketers to master.   

61 million adults in the United States live with a disability – that’s almost 20% of the country’s population. Their disabilities range from mental to physical, sensory to cognitive. Some of these can go unnoticed, or even unattended, on an ordinary day. Others require an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources to manage. If you think that you do not know anybody affected by a disability, you are incorrect. You are equally incorrect if you assume that, either way, the situation isn’t yours to deal with. When one in five Americans today lives with a disability–visible or non-apparent–the result is not an individual struggle, but a collective responsibility that impacts our entire nation. 

This is because so many of the challenges of living with a disability result not from the disability itself, but from the outside world’s stubborn unwillingness to make essential adjustments or modifications. Different people have different needs, and we need to make sure that all of these are thoroughly addressed. Remember, accessibility is not an optional feature of society – it is a requirement, which is something that even the most progressive politicians and engineers still have a tricky time prioritizing. 

You may be wondering what this discussion has to do with video content marketing. Well, the broad umbrella of “accessibility” doesn’t just refer to reserved parking spots, ramps, and grab bars in the shower. In addition to physical and legal constructs, it also includes creative content: Books, movies, television shows, theater, podcasts…and yes, even video marketing. 

Over the Garden Wall

We’ve already spoken a lot about the seemingly endless benefits of video content marketing, from the inarguable return on investment (ROI) it offers to the sense of trust and brand loyalty that it helps build in customers. There is no question that video marketing is one of the most effective methods for your brand to attract and convert leads at every stage of the marketing funnel. However, what we have not delved into nearly as much is the impossibly vast array of people in every brand’s audience; individuals who not only have diverse tastes and levels of product awareness, but who also require varying degrees of accessibility. 

Picture a lush, beautiful garden filled with sumptuous fruit trees…and surrounded on all sides by a high stone wall. Now, anybody who has a halfway-decent ladder can scale that wall as easily as if it wasn’t there in the first place, and enjoy all of the peaches and pears that the garden has to offer. Maybe ladders seem so common in this world that the concept of somebody not having a ladder never crossed the gardeners’ minds. But ladders are not as evenly-distributed as these imaginary gardeners might believe. And if your ladder is a little old and wobbly–or if you don’t even have a ladder in the first place—the quality of the fruit means nothing to you.

You will never be able to reach it or see it or taste it.

In fact, you probably won’t bother trying. 

Similarly, no matter how persuasive and moving your particular brand’s video content may be, if an individual living with a disability literally cannot engage with it, then that’s a potential lead cast aside for no good reason. Stone walls come in many different forms, and your company might be building them without even realizing it. 

Users with disabilities have very little patience for content that has not been adjusted for their needs – and why should they? That’s why 71% of individuals living with a disability will simply leave a website if it is not accessible. When that happens, the brand conversation is stopped dead in its tracks and all hopes for lead conversion immediately wither. If your garden was built with the assumption that everybody has the same “ladder,” a whole lot of fruit is going to sit there uneaten. And by not taking the key steps to make sure that your video content is accessible, you run the same risk of alienating potential leads. 

So what can your brand or company do to generate accessible video marketing, and how can you guarantee that almost everybody has an equal opportunity to engage with–and enjoy–the great content that you have already created?

Taking Next Steps

One of the first, most important steps that you can take to create accessible video content is captioning it. Captions are the text of the audio portion of your content, precisely synchronized with the video portion, usually in the form of sub- or surtitles. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, captions are one of the most efficient ways to make video content that features a heavy audio component accessible. 

Considering that 15% of American adults report some trouble hearing, there is an enormous audience that benefits from accessible captions. And that number goes up dramatically if your company or brand is specifically targeting older leads. Based on calculations performed by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “About 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. The rate increases to 8.5 percent for adults aged 55 to 64. Nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.”

In short, if you want to connect with more elderly audiences, your video content needs to be optimized for their needs – and that includes the possibility that they live with a disability. Here is our complete breakdown to adding captions on all of the most popular social platforms, updated in April 2021. 

The inverse of captions are audio descriptions – a separate audio track that accompanies your video and describes its contents for those are unable to see. Individuals who are blind can often understand a lot about a video based on its audio cues, but when specific, important information about your brand is exclusively conveyed visually, they miss out. 

Compared to audio captions, audio descriptions might initially seem like a complicated piece of extra content that you need to create. Luckily, the American Council of the Blind has already put together a comprehensive list of resources and commercial services who can provide all audio descriptions for you. Their assistance leaves your brand or company 100% free to focus on the video content itself, while also guaranteeing maximum accessibility.

Additionally, creating full transcripts of your video content can benefit both blind and hard of hearing leads. But just creating your accessible content is not the end of the discussion. With captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions, always make sure to test that your video player itself is accessibility-friendly before hosting content on it. 

Conscious Content

While the above are major steps for making sure that your content is accessible, they are not the only ones. Two other important considerations for those living with disabilities are to disable autoplay on your video content and to avoid flashing content. The former is for both those on the autism spectrum who may struggle with sudden sensory overload, and for hearing impaired individuals who may not be able to hear their screen reader over your autoplaying video. The latter is for individuals with epilepsy or who experience migraines, both of which can be triggered by flashing imagery. While these disabilities may be non-apparent, they must still be taken into account to avoid estranging or even harming your audience. 

By being conscious of accessibility, you are not only taking a progressive moral stance on video content, but you are also making a sound business decision. Captions can actually improve your search engine optimization (SEO) by making it easier for engine bots to crawl and index your video. Case studies have even shown that the addition of captions can result in up to a 40% increase in viewing, which means that accessibility directly lead to higher engagement. 

Whether you’re creating new video marketing content, or optimizing the content that you already have archived, accessibility is a clear win-win. Pay attention to accessibility today, and discover a whole new audience that has been there all along. 

Laura Cueva

Laura Cueva