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Creating Web Accessible Multimedia

This provides information on what is needed to make sure your multimedia content is accessible before you put it on the Web.

UVA has a policy in place that indicates technology developed needs to be in compliance with U.S. Section 508 and the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Though the policy does not specifically mention what WCAG level is required, compliance level AA is the minimum expected to meet ADA requirements based on legal cases. WCAG compliance levels are inclusive - meeting level AA compliance means you've taken the necessary action to meet level A compliance as well.

Some definitions:

Captions - subtitles in the video consisting of the text of the speech and non-speech audio information needed to understand the content.

Transcript - a text version of the speech and non-speech audio information needed to understand the content.

Audio description - description of visual information (including text displayed) needed to understand the content. (Examples of audio descriptions are available from the American Council of the Blind.)

WCAG Media Compliance Levels

The table below encompasses success criteria for time-based media alternatives.

This table represents the success criteria for time-based media alternatives.
Media Type Captions Transcript Audio Descriptions Sign Language
Pre-recorded Multimedia
  • A - must have
  • AA - must have
  • AAA - must have
  • A - should have
  • AA - should have
  • AAA - must have
  • A - must have
  • AA - must have
  • AAA - must have
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - must have
Pre-recorded Video-only not applicable
  • A - must have (1)
  • AA - should have
  • AAA - must have
  • A - must have (1)
  • AA - must have
  • AAA - must have
not applicable
Pre-recorded Audio-only not applicable
  • A - must have
  • AA - must have
  • AAA - must have
not applicable
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - must have
Live Multimedia
  • A - should have
  • AA - must have
  • AAA - must have
not applicable
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - optional
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - optional
Live Video-only not applicable
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - must have
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - optional
not applicable
Live Audio-only
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - must have (2)
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - must have (2)
not applicable
  • A - optional
  • AA - optional
  • AAA - optional

WCAG compliance level notes:

  1. Transcript OR audio description is necessary for a pre-recorded video-only resource to be WCAG level A compliant.
  2. Captions OR transcript is necessary for a live audio-only resource to be WCAG level AAA compliant.

Additional Media WCAG Considerations

  • Do not automatically play audio that plays for more than 3 seconds; if longer than that you need to have controls available to pause/stop it OR a volume control to reduce the volume or turn it off. In addition, these user interface controls need to be keyboard operable. (WCAG 1.4.2 level A and WCAG 2.1.1 level A)
  • For any moving, blinking or scrolling information that starts automatically, lasts more than five seconds, and is presented with other content, there is a way for the user to pause, stop, or hide it unless the movement, blinking, or scrolling is part of an essential activity. Any UI controls that exist need to be keyboard operable. (WCAG 2.2.2 level A and WCAG 2.1.1 level A)
  • For any auto-updating information that starts automatically and is presented with other content, there is a way for the user to pause, stop, or hit it or to control the frequency of the update unless the auto-updating is part of an activity where it is essential. And any UI controls that exist need to be keyboard operable. (WCAG 2.2.2 level A and WCAG 2.1.1 A)
  • To prevent individuals who have photosensitive seizure disorders from having a seizure, do not include content that flashes more than 3 times in a second or make sure the flashes are dim enough such that the color/brightness is below the threshold that could cause a seizure, or completely exclude the user of flashing content. (WCAG 2.3.1 level A, WCAG 2.3.2 level AAA)
  • Have no (or low) background audio. (WCAG 1.4.7 level AAA)
  • Motion animation triggered by user interaction can be disabled, unless the animation is essential to the information conveyed. (WCAG 2.3.3 level AAA)

When applying keyboard navigation of media player controls make sure that the person does not get stuck anywhere in the media player that prevents them from being able to navigate out of the media player. This is considered a keyboard trap and would fail WCAG 2.1.2 level A.

Multimedia Resources

Fully Accessible HTML5 Media Player

Able Player is a fully accessible cross-browser HTML5 media player that supports both audio and video. If you have control over the server where your web media content will be utilized, then consider installing Able Player on the server and using it.

Testing Photosensitivity in Multimedia

If you believe you have content that might cause photosensitive epilepsy seizures, then you should consider checking your media by installing the Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (PEAT) developed by the University of Maryland.

Web Resources

Web Accessibility Initiative has information regarding audio and video, which includes understanding the user needs of people with disabilities as well as guidance for planning your media work.

Creating accessible synchronized media content is available on the U.S. government's Section 508 site. It provides information about user needs as well as planning for your media content. Searching this site provides additional resources like the create accessible video, audio, and social media section.

The Ultimate Guide to Audio Description by 3Play Media.

UVA Resources

Creating accessible audio and video materials from the Library is considered the primary resource per the UVA Digital Accessibility site. This covers topics such as

  • when to use captions
  • automated captioning services
  • professional captioning services, which have a cost associated.

UVA and VHEAP have worked on a captioning intiative to expand on the work that GMU did in negotiating captioning rates.