How to Make Audio Content Accessible A Comprehensive Guide for Inclusive Communication

How to Make Audio Content Accessible: A Comprehensive Guide for Inclusive Communication

Published: October 31, 2023

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    Audio content has emerged as a transformative medium in the digital age, enabling creators to connect with their audience on a deeper level. Whether it is a podcast, a narrated video, or a soundbite, audio uniquely engages the senses and emotions.

    However, this uniqueness demands an understanding of accessibility needs to be able to ensure that your content reaches a broader audience.

    While legal compliance is a driving force behind audiovisual content compliance, it should not be the sole motivator. Accessibility goes beyond fulfilling regulatory requirements; it’s about making content that resonates with people from all walks of life.

    Inclusivity is the heart of digital, audio, and video accessibility. It is why content creators need to recognize this while embarking on creating accessible audio content. At ADA Site Compliance, we understand the complexities of web and audio accessibility.

    Our team of compliance experts is ready to help you ensure digital accessibility if you find the process overwhelming. We also keep your digital presence updated with the latest accessibility standards.

    Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and Audio Content

    When you hear the term “WCAG compliant,” it often refers to WCAG 2.0 Level AA, which has long been the primary standard to ensure web pages meet accessibility standards. It is common in global accessibility laws, including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in the U.S.

    To achieve WCAG 2.0 Level AA, Level A standards must also be met. To help you better understand this, here are the captioning and audio description requirements for Levels A, AA, and AAA:

    • Level A: Requires captions for prerecorded audio content in synchronized media and an alternative for time-based media or audio description when applicable.
    • Level AA: Level A mandates captions for live audio content in synchronized media and audio descriptions for prerecorded video content in synchronized media.
    • Level AAA: Further includes sign language interpretation for prerecorded audio content and extended audio descriptions for videos with insufficient pauses.

    WCAG does not specify precise metrics for caption, visual accessibility, and description quality. However, the guidelines focus on broader principles where content must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (often known as POUR).

    These principles lay the foundation for creating content accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

    • Perceivable By Screen Readers

      Perceivable emphasizes making content available to all users. In the case of audio content, proving the audio is clear and distinguishable for individuals with varying abilities to perceive while using screen readers, hearing aids, or other assistive technologies.

    • Operable By a Diverse Audience

      Operable revolves around ensuring a diverse audience with different needs can operate to engage with the content. It is possible by providing user-friendly controls and compliance features like pause and play buttons, adjustable volume, and navigation options.

    • Understandable Ideas and Content

      Understandable is about making the content comprehensible not just through content language and vocabulary but also through its structure and organization. A well-structured audio presentation ensures the main ideas are clear and easy to follow.

    • Robust Across Multiple Technologies

      Robust ensures the content remains consistent and compatible across various technologies, platforms, devices, and applications to provide broader access.

    Creating Inclusive Communication For Complete Web Accessibility

    Various factors like neurodiversity, physical abilities, education, and language are taken into consideration to ensure inclusive communication through audio.

    So start by analyzing your audience to identify and address barriers stemming from differences in abilities, backgrounds, and context. It helps you create a context-inclusive design for your audio, removes access barriers, and increases access for all.

    A thorough barrier analysis includes using high-impact strategies, complying with legal requirements, and seeking guidance from your organization’s accessibility office.

    The analysis results help you come up with the best practices for creating accessible content and include:

    • Incorporating inclusive design from the outset
    • Involving diverse audiences in decision-making
    • Accessing necessary resources to tackle all access barriers
    • Following common best practices
    • Providing clear contact information for audience-specific access needs.
    • Enhancing access in all communication products

    Once you have created the best practices to improve accessibility, it’s time to test and implement the design through multimodal communication, employing diverse testers and continually evaluating your content for compliance.

    Additional tips to remember for accessible communication, and inclusive communication include:

    • Using inclusive language like plain and simple language
    • Using bullet points and sub-headings
    • Left-aligning text while maintaining a consistent layout
    • Ensuring good color contrast and readable font size
    • Presenting important information
    • Using simple colors
    • Using everyday examples for better clarity
    • Avoiding excessive use of abbreviations
    • Repeating audience questions
    • Using a microphone
    • Providing image descriptions and video transcripts
    • Minimizing audio distractions
    • Using active language
    • Aiming for grade 6-7 readability level
    • Giving voice to subjects while telling stories
    • Seeking audience feedback for improved access
    • Promoting diversity in text and images

    Similarly, there are a few do-nots to remember while creating accessible audio like:

    • Relying solely on images, colors, or videos to convey information
    • Using uninformative links or headings like ‘Click Here.’
    • Choosing low contrast and small fonts
    • Overwhelming uses with large blocks of text, excessive typing, and scrolling
    • Overusing italics, underlining, and capital letters
    • Hindering access to support or help

    Captions Provide Universal Access to Audio Content

    Captions are the linchpin of audio compliance. They offer a text-based representation of spoken words, making audio text universally accessible. Their impact extends far beyond providing access to individuals with hearing impairments.

    They unlock the content for a broader audience by:

    • Bridging the communication gap by enabling individuals with hearing impairments to engage with your audio effectively.
    • Enhancing comprehension for those who find understanding spoken language due to accents, dialects, or complex vocabulary difficult. Reading along with captions makes it easier to understand.
    • Making it easier to consume content in noisy environments like cafes, airports, or public transportation as they can follow along without audio.
    • Being more like language learners by correlating spoken words with written text, thus aiding language acquisition.

    Creating High-Quality Captions

    High-quality captions are pivotal in ensuring that your audio meets accessibility standards. It’s not just about inserting the proper text but also about creating documents adhering to specific criteria like:

    • Accuracy: Captions must accurately represent the spoken content. Errors or omissions can lead to misunderstandings and hinder the overall viewing experience.
    • Synchronization: Captions should be synchronized to appear at the right time, in harmony with the pace of the spoken words, for a seamless experience.
    • Clarity: Captions should clearly and concisely straightforwardly convey the message. Complex language or overly verbose captions hinder comprehension. On the converse, clear captions ensure a diverse audience accesses the content.  
    • Accessibility Standards: High-quality captions meet audio compliance standards, like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG compliance ensures individuals with disabilities can consume the content.

    Evolution of Captioning Services

    Captioning services have evolved significantly to meet the demand for high-quality captions. They are now a combination of automation and human review, delivering the best possible results. This hybrid approach uses the efficiency of automation while the human touch ensures accuracy and context understanding.

    Automated systems transcribe the audio to generate a rough caption draft while humans fine-tune the captions, correcting errors and ensuring synchronization and clarity.

    The Role of Audio Descriptions

    For individuals with visual impairments, audio descriptions play a pivotal role in making video content accessible through words and plain language. They are a lifeline, providing narrated explanations of visual elements in the audio recordings.

    They describe crucial visual elements such as actions, facial expressions, settings, and scenes in videos. Audio descriptions are thus indispensable by providing:

    • A bridge between the visual and auditory aspects of the content. They thus ensure the narrative remains coherent for individuals who cannot see the visuals.
    • Filling the gaps and details individuals with visual impairments may miss, thus providing a comprehensive understanding of the visual elements.
    • Individuals with visual impairments have an emotional engagement with content through clear descriptions of expressions and actions.
    • Enhanced inclusivity by allowing individuals with visual impairments to enjoy the same content as their sighted counterparts.

    Four Tips for Crafting Inclusive Audio Descriptions

    Crafting audio descriptions is a skill that ensures your videos are inclusive and accessible to all audiences. Following these key principles ensures you capture essential visual details and context in your audio descriptions:

    • Knowing What to Convey in Your Audio Descriptions

      Focus on the information to visually convey through audio descriptions, the first language, and its contribution to the video’s message through:

      • Mention the names of all speakers in the video.
      • Indicating whenever people enter or exit the frame.
      • Describing the individuals’ emotions and facial expressions.
      • Highlighting any significant actions or movements.
      • Providing context about the setting and background visuals impacting the video’s content.
    • Incorporate Visual Information Naturally

      It is integral that you seamlessly integrate visual information into your audio descriptions. Having subjects introduce themselves and their surroundings makes it easier for everyone, including those with sight impairments, to understand who is speaking.

    • Timing Is Everything

      Work at naturally inserting descriptions in the original audio, like in between dialogues enhances the content instead of disrupting it. Work at conveying the most crucial information based on the available time, and add any missed details before and after the video.

    • Clarity and Conciseness

      Always maintain clarity and conciseness while delivering audio descriptions. This means:

      • Speaking in the present tense and describing actions as they unfold
      • Using gender-inclusive language and plain, non-technical terms
      • Avoiding starting descriptions with “we see.”
      • Ensuring your style, tone, and pace match the video’s content to enhance, not detract from the viewing experience.
      • Ensuring they convey relevant information to understand the content and not irrelevant details that clutter the listening experience.

    Differences Between Standard and Extended Descriptions

    Knowing the uses and differences between standard and extended descriptions helps you decide which to use:

    Standard Descriptions are:

    • Suitable for videos with natural pauses that can accommodate the necessary visual information.
    • Works well for content with frequent pauses or limited visual details.
    • Challenging to follow if the timing is off.

    Extended Descriptions are:

    • Ideal for videos lacking adequate pauses for narration or having extensive visual content.
    • Suitable for content with minimal or no natural pauses.
    • Perfect for pausing the source video thus offering space for more extensive descriptions.

    In summary, captions and audio descriptions are not merely compliance requirements; they are gateways to a more inclusive digital landscape. Making content accessible is about bridging gaps and offering equal access to information and entertainment.

    High-quality captions ensure that audio messages can be comprehended by a diverse audience, while audio descriptions unlock the visual world within audio for individuals with visual disabilities.

    Six More Tips For Providing Optimal Audio Accessibility

    Captions, audio descriptions, transcripts, and clarity do indeed help reduce accessibility issues. however, in addition to them, adopting a few additional measures goes a long way toward improving your audio compliance:

    • 1. Using Readable Slides

      Accessibility requirements include using slides in audiovisual presentations that are designed for readability. So factors like font size, font type, and slide organization go into creating accessible slides. Ensuring that slides are sufficiently long and legible also contributes to a more inclusive presentation.

    • 2. Selecting an Accessible Hosting Platform

      When considering where to host your audio and video content, choose platforms that prioritize accessibility, such as YouTube and Vimeo. Some benefits of using these platforms include a fully accessible player that reaches a broader audience despite their cognitive, physical, or visual disabilities.

    • 3. Creating Accessible Webinars

      The best way to ensure webinars and live content are audio accessible is by:

      • Choosing and using an accessible platform, like Zoom or Google Meet, that offers live captioning, access via keyboard, and screen reader support.
      • Speaking clearly and slowly, allowing the audience to be interactive asking questions, and providing notes in advance.
      • Presenting content in multiple formats, majorly by combining text and visuals, especially for the visuals that convey important information.
    • 4. Creating Accessible Social Media Content

      Following these eight tips go a long way toward making your social media content accessible:

      • Ensuring you always add alternative text to images on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
      • Use emojis sparingly, and if used, ensure you provide alternative text in the post.
      • Ensure videos shared on social media have captions, subtitles, or a voiceover.
      • If necessary take the time and effort to describe the video content too.
      • Add a sufficient time gap between frames in GIFs for improved comprehension.
      • Capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag for screen reader users.
      • Limit links to one per post and make their destination clear.
      • Write posts with accessible language and use social media management tools that support accessibility features.
    • 5. Creating Accessible Podcasts

      Creating accessible podcasts involves hosting episodes on an accessible media player, providing accurate transcripts, and potentially adding timing to transcripts for easier navigation. There are services that also offer human transcription to better meet your compliance needs. Some platforms even let you embed transcripts on websites.

    • 6. Holistic Accessibility

      In the world of audio, embracing a holistic approach to compliance is essential. It’s about considering the diverse needs of the audience and addressing them comprehensively. Compliance should not be viewed as a checklist but as a commitment to making content that truly speaks to everyone.

      Ensuring content accessibility does more than prevent lawsuits and reach a larger audience. Compliant audio also helps enhance user experiences as users with audio impairments can enjoy your content.

      Your taking the time and effort to make your content compliant goes a long way to fostering a positive brand image for you and your company. All these reasons will give you more than enough reason to want to put in the effort to ensure you create and share compliant audio content.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Making audio accessible is a cumbersome process, often leading to website owners and developers asking multiple questions. Keeping this in mind, here are a few of the most frequently asked questions:

    • What are the four principles of accessibility that require that content?

      Four main principles that are also known as the acronym POUR are the basis for the WCAG’s main accessibility principles. They are perceptible, operational, understandable, and robust.

    • What are the guidelines for inclusive communication?

      Inclusive communication acknowledges diversity and demonstrates respect to promote equal opportunities for everyone. There is no demeaning, insulting, or excluding of people based on religion, age, socioeconomic status, or disability, and its guidelines for inclusive communications include:

      • Emphasizing the individuals’ potential instead of conditions
      • Avoiding verbal abuse like ‘suffering from’
      • Avoiding terms that define disabilities as limitations
      • Avoiding the use of collective adjectives
      • Setting norms for equitable access and opportunity for everyone
    • What should you provide with your audio and video to ensure accessibility?

      To provide access to audio and video content, you can provide:

      • Synchronized and clear captions
      • Descriptive transcripts
      • Standard or extended audio descriptions
      • Accessible media players
      • Ensuring the default soundtrack includes people with visual disabilities
      • Keyboard accessible controls
      • Avoiding the use of autoplay
    • Which adaptive strategies make audiovisual presentations more accessible?

      Some adaptive strategies that increase the accessibility of audiovisual presentations include:

      • Using a high-contrast color scheme and accessible design template
      • Using large text with minimal visuals
      • Providing captions and transcripts for all multimedia content
      • Using accessible controls
      • Tailoring the topic as per the audience’s interests
      • Talking clearly and in well-modulated tones and not too loudly, rapidly, or softly
    • Creating An Inclusive Digital Landscape

      The values of inclusivity and accessibility have never been more critical than today when digital content reigns. Making your audio accessible goes beyond compliance; it is a testament to your commitment to providing equal access and opportunities to everyone.

      Captions, audio descriptions, and adaptive strategies enrich the audiovisual experience by not forgetting anyone in the digital landscape.

      At ADA Site Compliance, we understand the complexities of web page- and audio accessibility. Do not worry if you find the world of accessibility overwhelming or need assistance ensuring that your content is inclusive.

      Our team of accessibility experts is committed to checking your website and video content for accessibility. We also ensure that your digital and social media presence stays updated with the latest accessibility standards, allowing you to make a positive impact in the digital realm.

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