New tools put accessibility in reach for everyone (@jdblundell)

I’ve written in the past about the value of adding video to your website and the value of adding captioning to those videos.

As time consuming as it can be, it really does add a lot of accessibility to your content. For organizations and sites needing to meet Section 508 requirements for their websites and videos, not only should videos posted to your website be accessible but also those posted to YouTube, Facebook or other services.

As an accessibility consultant recently told me, “If it has your organization’s logo on it – you should make it accessible.” The Section 508 requirements in the U.S. not only include requirements for synced captions for each video but also require a transcript to be available for each video.

Reading these guidelines may may seem like overkill to someone who’s been blessed with no problem seeing or hearing my entire life but consider how a video appears to someone with hearing difficulties. Users with hearing impairments can visually see what’s going on but they have no idea what’s being said without video captions.

And for someone who’s visually impaired, they may have no idea of what’s going on unless there’s a written transcript available for their screen reader to read to them or perhaps a Braille keyboard that allows them to read along with their fingers.

The issue can be even greater for those with both hearing and visual impairment.

While enabling this type of accessibility can be time consuming, new tools are making it even easier.

amaraEnter Amara (formerly Universal Subtitles). With Amara, users can share their videos from a number of video services – like YouTube and Vimeo – and not only create their own captions but also crowdsource the work among your organization or the general public to make all videos accessible (and in multiple languages).

Once a video is shared on Amara, users can create captions for the videos in 4-second increments. After the captions are complete and approved by the video’s contributor, Amara provides a video overlay via Javascript that allows anyone to embed the video – with captions – on their own site.

Viewers can then select the caption language they prefer while watching the video playback. In addition to making the captioning process far easier with a web based solution, Amara has recently announced the ability to link directly to your YouTube account, increasing the ability for Amara users to crowdsource the creation of captions for all your YouTube videos.

From Amara:

We are very proud to launch a major new feature– free crowd subtitling for every personal YouTube user! Want to make your videos accessible to people around the world who speak a different language? Want deaf and hard of New tools put accessibility in reach for everyonehearing users to be able to watch? Just connect your YouTube account to Amara and invite your viewers to help. Whenever subtitles get created, they will be synced directly to your YouTube channel. It takes about 10 seconds to connect your YouTube account.

Essentially, once your YouTube account is linked and the captions are complete, Amara will automatically update the captions directly on your YouTube videos, without the need for the video overlay or the need to download the caption and re-upload it to YouTube.
Imagine your church posting a video of Sunday’s sermon to YouTube on Sunday afternoon and within hours, users within your organization or around the world have made your content a much richer and accessible experience with multi-language captions and transcripts.

Are there other tools you’re using to make your videos or web content more accessible?

To see an example of Amara in action, you can view the latest video I updated with captions last week.

For more information, read the WC3 Web Content Accessibility Guildelines and the WC3 Web Accessibility Initiative. You can also read about the Section 508 requirements which serve as a baseline standard for all federal sites in the U.S.

Editor’s Note: The UK equivalent is the DDA

About Jonathan D. Blundell

Jonathan Blundell is a husband, father, blogger, podcaster, author and media geek who is hoping to live a simple life and follow The Way. You can find him and links to his numerous projects at or follow him on Twitter: @jdblundell or circle him on G+.