What are the rules regarding captions, audio descriptions and transcripts?

The rules regarding multi-media files (videos, etc…) are pretty clear. If you produce the file, or simply post a file created by someone else on your site, they must have captions.

Paragraph A, Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Ace, 1194.22 says, "A text equivalent (caption) for every non-text element shall be provided." Additionally, Paragraph C, Section 508 1194.24 stipulates, "All training and informational video and multimedia productions which support the agency's mission, regardless of format, that contain speech or other audio information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be open or closed captioned."

Also, Paragraph D, Section 508 1194.24 says, "All training and informational video and multimedia productions that support the agency's mission, regardless of format, that contain visual information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be audio described." If there is visual information—such as action or expressions-in the video that is necessary to understand the production's content, that information must be described in an audio file, which also must be synchronized with the video.

According to the U.S. Access Board, these requirements for captions and audio descriptions include live video.

Regarding the Software used for playing audio, and multimedia:

Paragraph M, Section 508 1194.22 states, "When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with 1194.21(a) through (l)." Modern web browsers often inform users when a missing plug-in is needed to access special content on a web page; however, with the many new devices and "user agents" available, it's still best to provide a link to the required software (such as QuickTime, Flash, Real, etc.) on the page where your media is located.

The software to which you link must also fulfill Section 508 requirements for software as outlined in Section 508 1194.21, Software Applications and Operating Systems. Briefly, the requirements from this section are that the software must:

  • Be navigable using a keyboard;

  • Not interfere with accessibility features of other software or the operating system;

  • Provide an on-screen indication of the current focus (the currently selected place of action);

  • Provide information about the roles, states, and operation of each interface element to assistive technology;

  • Use meanings consistently for any images that identify the software's controls, status, or program elements;

  • Use the operating system to display text and contextual information;

  • Not override any user defined display settings in the operating system;

  • Give users the choice of turning off animations and displaying information from the animations in other method;

  • Not rely only on color to prompt users, or provide information or context;

  • Provide a wide variety of color and contrast settings (only if the application allows users to adjust color and contrast);

  • Not cause blinking or flashing at a rate greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz; and,

  • Ensure that users of Assistive Technologies are able to fully use and navigate through electronic forms, and provide any necessary cues and directions to the Assistive Technologies.

Key Areas to Test for Accessibility

From: DigitalGov.gov

This isn't a comprehensive list, but these are important items you'll need to check in addition to your general accessibility testing.

  • Use your keyboard to navigate through the multimedia player: start, stop, fast forward, rewind, turn on/off captions, maximize/minimize the window, and raise/lower the volume, in addition to any other controls your player uses. When testing with the tab key, be sure the tabbing order makes sense.

  • Use a screen reader to review your pages, media player's controls, etc.: Check all of the items you reviewed with your keyboard, plus listen to any directions and cues (make sure the buttons are "labeled" with commonly used terms); listen to the entire page/window: isolate links, open lists of graphics and headings; listen to any synchronized audio description tracks); turn off your monitor while you listen to the screen reader and compare it to a script of the exact content that should be heard from the screen reader.

  • Make sure your transcripts read exactly as the audio from your media; check the transcripts for proper punctuation; and, if any acronyms have been used, define them.

  • Watch your video and check that the captions are visually clear and not "pixelated," especially if open captions have been used; make sure captions have been spell checked and reviewed for proper grammar and punctuation.

  • Ask people with different disabilities to test your media project. Their results in using your media may be different from yours.