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Make your Digital Media Projects Accessible

1. Consider accessibility in pre-production

Build accessibility into your video from the start by considering it while you script, storyboard, and plan.

  • Make on-screen text readable by using high-contrast colours, sans-serif font that is reasonably large, and ensuring that it remains on-screen long enough to be read. Avoid placing text at the bottom of the screen where it may overlap with captions
  • Avoid flashing/strobing content.
  • Ensure that any speakers in your video are visible and well-lit. Some people use mouth movement to help them understand spoken language.
  • Plan for description of visual information. You can either integrate description into the main audio content. Integrated description is when all visual information that users need to understand the video is integrated into the main audio.
    • For example, instead of saying “Whisk the mixture until it looks like this,” you can say “Whisk the mixture until the oil, eggs and flour are a uniform colour.” If description is not integrated, you will need to either add it to the transcript.

2. Create captions

Captions provide additional information about the auditory content of the video. It makes content accessible to those who have difficulty hearing or processing audio content, as well as those who have trouble understanding language or accents.

There are two types of captions:

  • Closed captions: Captions that can be turned on and off by the user. They are uploaded as a separate file and are often used in online videos.
  • Open captions: Captions that are embedded within the video and cannot be turned off. They are added directly to the video and are often used in offline videos. Open captions should be used any time you don’t have control of a closed caption feature.

Best practices for creating captions:

  • Include all voiceover and dialogue.
    • If at any point the speech is unclear, it should be marked as [inaudible].
  • Speakers should be identified in square brackets when more than one person is in the video.
  • Include any meaningful sound effects in square brackets. For example, [Phone rings]
  • Each caption should be no more than 2 lines and should not exceed 40 characters in length.

3. Create descriptive transcripts

Descriptive transcripts allow individuals who cannot access content from audio or video to read a text transcript instead. To make a descriptive transcript, use your original script or download your video captions to capture what is being said, then add descriptions.

How do I create a transcript from my video?


  • Upload your video to YouTube. Use YouTube’s transcribe feature to generate automatic captions for your audio. The longer your video is, the longer it will take for automatic captions to generate.
  • Download your automated captions by going to Video Subtitles > Options > Download, then select your preferred file format.
  • Keep in mind that the voice to text technology is not always accurate, which is why it is important to proofread and edit the transcription.

YouTube video subtitles menu highlighting a published automatic selection and the corresponding options menu

Three YouTube subtitle download options are available in the following file formats: vtt, srt, and sbv

Microsoft Streams

  • If you have a Microsoft 365 license, go to Office 365 homepage and log in.
  • Find the Stream application. You may need to use the search bar to locate it.
  • Upload your video.

Upload option located on the menu bar

  • Once it’s finished uploading, go to My content > Videos > Update video details.

My content dropdown provides option to select Videos where you can select the update video details button for specific videos

  • Set your video language, then select Download file to download automated captions with timestamps. Note that depending on the length of your video, captions can take longer to generate.

Under the Details menu there is a Video Language dropdown. From the Options menu select the Download file link.

  • Head to Microsoft’s Stream transcript file cleaner page and upload the captions file you just downloaded. The captions with timestamps will then be converted to a plaintext transcript.
  • Keep in mind that the voice to text technology is not always accurate, which is why it is important to proofread and edit the transcription.

What should I include in my descriptive transcript?

Descriptive transcripts should include more than just what is being said, and should include:

  • Important audio cues and/or sound effects.
  • Any words displayed on screen that are not included in the voiceover.
  • Descriptions of actions.
  • Visual characteristics that give context.


  • Be sure to include text for all audio that is spoken, the identity of who is speaking, and any meaningful sounds. Ask yourself, does leaving out this sound change the story or experience?
  • Include sounds and speaker identification in square brackets.
  • For example [Phone rings].


  • Include images, text, and any information that is required to tell the same story and present the same information as the video.
  • For example [Keywords for “honeybees” are listed on screen: “apis”, “bumblebee” and “queen bee”].
  • Ensure the transcript identifies which person or character is associated with each described action.
  • For example [Mark raises his hand].
  • You do not need to include details that don’t contribute to the understanding of the video, such as what a person is wearing, unless it is part of the plot or adds meaning.
  • If the dialogue covers the text on screen, you do not need to repeat it.

4. Create described audio upon request

For people who are visually impaired, described video makes media such as TV programs and web videos more accessible. During gaps in dialogue, auditory narration describes visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions, and costumes. Description requires advance planning so that all visual content is included and added when there are suitable gaps in the audio.

According to The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WGAG), if you have a descriptive transcript you don't need to have descriptive video unless otherwise requested.

How do I create described audio?

  • Create a transcript and write out the descriptions.
  • Record yourself reading the descriptions.
  • Create a new audio file by combining the original audio and the new description audio.
  • Add your described audio file to your video to create your new described video.

What are the best practices for creating described audio?

Plan ahead:

  • When writing a script for your video, ensure that the most critical content is spoken in the audio or dialogue. This will save you having to add description later.
  • Ensure that enough silent or quieter space is provided in your video to accommodate audio descriptions.
  • Any text on screen needs to be vocalized, so ensure your text stays on screen for long enough for it to be described in your audio.
  • You may need to lower background music levels to ensure your described audio is heard.

Be clear and concise:

  • Make your descriptions brief and only focus only on the key points.
  • Do not add description when there is dialogue.
  • Descriptions of sounds are not required.

Thoughtfully describe individual characteristics:

  • A description of a person should be said before they speak.
  • Be careful with your choice of wording or biases that may shape or change the message of your video.
    • Avoid assuming the emotion of a character, and instead focus on translating their expressions (i.e., Instead of saying “Hannah is sad” you could say “Hannah frowns”).
  • Do not describe race or ethnicity unless it is relevant.
  • Characters without names may be described by their features and attire.
  • Use person-first language (e.g., “A person using a wheelchair.”).

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