Making Video Accessible to All Students

What is ADA compliance for multimedia in teaching? What is required?

Multimedia accessibility means ensuring that people with any disability type---including motor, auditory, cognitive, seizure/neurological, and visual impairments---are able to use your multimedia content. More specifically, your content should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all students.

Inclusive Design for Learning

As educators, we want to focus on Inclusive Design for Learning --- providing the best teaching and learning experiences for all students. When developing video, the four key areas of accessibility we need to remember include:

  • Video Player: Ensure that a person who requires keyboard navigation or an assistive device can navigate the window where the video plays (that is, the video player).
  • Captions: Ensure that the audio parts of your video appear as text at the appropriate time and give access to people who are hearing impaired or deaf. Note: captions, subtitles, and titles are different. Captions refer to a specific type of technology and format, not just any words on the screen.
  • Audio Description: Ensure that you have a description of all a video's visual elements, giving access to people who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Color Use: Ensure that information distinguished by color is also distinguishable without color. For example, by context, line weight, symbols, etc. This is particularly an issue with graphs and data visualizations in science!

Each institution may have different requirements and policies. We recommend speaking to your campus office of disability services (or the equivalent) to determine what your local requirements are and what services are available to support you.

Also keep in mind that if you are posting your videos online, you should be thinking about the accessibility of the website or online platform. It won't matter if the video meets accessibility guidelines if your students can't get to it in the first place.

Best practices

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Resources for making it happen


Captions and Audio Descriptions


Specific video-hosting platforms

  • YouTube
    • How to add captions on YouTube
    • How to edit YouTube Captions
      • Note: YouTube does offer automatic captioning, but it can be very unreliable and contain errors. However, you can create your own transcript by turning on automatic captioning, generating a transcript, downloading and correcting the transcript, turning off automatic captioning and then uploading the correct transcript. Sometimes this is faster than generating the initial transcript from scratch.
  • Vimeo
  • Specific platforms in schools
    • Schools use a variety of platforms, including Blackboard, Tegrity, Ponopto, Desire to Learn, Canvas, Moodle, and Sakai. The installation may be customized according to your institution's contract. Talk to your in-house tech support to determine what resources and services are available to you.

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Audio Descriptions

Online content and colorblindness (some non-video examples):

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Original content for this page was contributed by: Alan Whittington, Joann Hochstein, and Cian Dawson during the Spring 2014 virtual workshop on Designing and Using Video in Undergraduate Geoscience Education. Our growing community of contributors continues to add to these resources. Get involved »