I'm a natural light portrait photographer for personal brands and young adults based out of New England. I capture joyful images for people who love bright photos with pops of color, and I draw most of my inspiration from the beach.
In an increasingly digital world, where almost everyone has the ability to create content for others, accessibility is something that often gets overlooked. In the United States, small businesses have different compliance requirements for the ADA than larger corporations, and as a result accessibility is something that often falls through the cracks, especially when it comes to social media marketing.
The result? Alienating a large demographic of people and limiting your potential reach for your content. According to multiple studies, captions are used by many more people than just those who are deaf or hard of hearing (3PlayMedia). Surveys conducted demonstrate that between 60-80% of viewers prefer when there are subtitles (captions) for videos (Ofcom, 2006) for a number of different reasons beyond not hearing audio. Furthermore, up to 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound, with viewers relying on captions instead (The Guardian, 2019).
The point? Captioned videos has become more integrated into daily life for the majority of the population, and this needs to translate into the social media and online education space as well.
The purpose of this blog is to present helpful information gathered from my individual perspective and experiences combined with available public information, such as research and studies. It is also important to recognize that increasing accessibility for all goes beyond adding captioning + transcription to videos. While I will touch on some additional ways to be inclusive, this post is not meant to be exhaustive and focuses largely on accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
The biggest area for improvement when it comes to captioning and accessibility on social media is in Instagram Stories. Many times, users will post recorded videos of them speaking, educating, etc. without providing captions or adequate summaries. This makes it incredibly difficult to access content for users who watch stories without using audio. As a general rule, any time you are speaking in a video, especially when teaching, your videos should be captioned.
There are two main ways to caption Instagram stories– summaries and captions. Summaries describe the content of the video and cover the main points and key takeaways. Captions are word-for-word transcriptions that appear on the screen as the video is playing. Captions are the most inclusive because they include every word that is spoken and don’t leave any details out. There are also two mediums you can use to caption your videos for Instagram stories: you can natively use the Instagram app and use their text feature, or you can import your video to Threads and have it automatically captioned using their voice notes feature.
Both of these methods have their pros and cons, which I’ll briefly outline:
Pros: Native within the app, allows for customization of font, text color and background color, can adjust font size. High accuracy since it is user-created. Best for summaries.
Cons: More time-consuming, really only allows for summarizing
If you choose to caption or summarize within Instagram, it is important to highlight your text to allow it to pop off of the video background. I like to choose darker colors for the background and white for the text, but it can be done the opposite way as well. It’s most important that you create contrast between the text, highlight, and video so that the text is clear and easy to read (i.e., bright yellow is not a good highlight color).
Pros: Automatic captioning, quick, words/errors can be edited. Best for true captioning.
Cons: Can’t resize or change the color of the text.
Watch my tutorial on how to use threads below 👇🏻
View this post on Instagram
If you choose to caption with Threads, make sure in advance that there is a semi-large DARK area in the video that the text can be placed on. My favorite way to do this is by wearing a black t-shirt when I plan to use Threads captions.
In general, other accessibility/captioning best practices include speaking at a moderate speed and enunciating/speaking clearly. This is especially important if you are trying to use auto-generated captions, because the machine needs to be able to distinguish your words. It is also important to record somewhere with decent lighting on your face, to avoid dark shadows that can make it difficult to lip read or read the text.
I also want to cover the importance of making online courses accessible, for all of the same reasons mentioned above (i.e., the vast majority of people are consuming video content with captions) Especially when it comes to education, it is also important to be accommodating and inclusive of different learning styles, and all of the suggestions I share apply to this as well. By making your course accessible to different learning styles, you are making your content relevant for MANY more people, which is great for you AND them!
Resources exist to create auto-generated captions OR human-generated, but at the very minimum you should be adding automatic captions. It is important to note, however, that because they are automatic they only have about an 80% accuracy rating (depending on the service). Where possible, try to select a service that will allow you to manually edit/override any typos or mistakes the system makes. Both free and paid services exist for both types of captioning. One highly rated service that offers both is Rev Captioning. The Described and Captioned Media Program also has a number of resources regarding captioning, especially if you are going to try to DIY (which can make sense for short videos, YouTube videos, etc.)
The same service provider mentioned above, Rev, also offers transcription services. Transcripts are essentially written scripts of your videos that users can read instead of watching the video. This is a great option for linguistic learners (people who learn best through reading/writing). If you are unable to share a full transcript of your videos, at minimum it can be helpful to provide an outline or framework for the topics and information covered.
Including audio (mp3) versions of your files is a great way to accommodate auditory learners, or those who like to learn on the go. Many videos can easily be converted into mp3 format. It is also important to be ensuring that you are using a quality microphone to record your material to ensure the best audio quality possible.
While this isn’t as important as the other three, including course workbooks are a great way to accommodate kinesthetic learners, or those who learn by doing (if it is applicable and makes sense for your course)
Especially for those who present slides as a component of your course, instead of simply recording a voiceover of your slides, try to record yourself speaking/teaching the slides, and include an icon of yourself in the video. For example, Loom keeps an icon of you in a corner while you record your video, which works perfectly.
Providing captioning for your materials can be extremely daunting and tiring. However, it is important to recognize that it is even more tiring for those who need these resources and struggle to receive them. Especially when it comes to sharing paid content, it is crucial to take the extra step to include as many people as possible.
Accessibility-related expenses can be tax-deductible for your business! While it varies by your state and country, most small businesses are eligible to apply for special grants & funding specifically for making their business more accessible and inclusive. This link provides a brief overview about the types of tax deductions you can qualify for, and you can also find out more information by searching ‘ADA compliance funding in [your state]’
Rev Captioning & Transcription: https://www.rev.com/caption
Loom Video Recording: https://www.loom.com/
Described and Captioned Media Program: https://dcmp.org/learn/213
National Association of the Deaf: https://www.nad.org/resources/
Tax Deductions for Accessibility Expenses: https://adata.org/faq/what-funding-assistance-available-removing-barriers-and-accommodating-customers-disabilities
The Four Learning Styles: https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/education/blog/types-of-learning-styles/