Why accessibility matters now more than ever

When thinking about accessibility, digital accessibility is often overlooked; this blog discusses the importance of digital accessibility.

We should all strive towards a world of equality. When thinking about accessibility, digital accessibility is often overlooked; this blog discusses the importance of digital accessibility. We’ll also show you currently available tools to help with increasing accessibility and finally, we will help you make your video content more accessible for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Why is Accessibility Important?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 1 billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability. This is approximately 15% of the world’s population. The number of people living with disability has increased and will continue to do so. This is due to an ageing population and an increase in chronic health conditions.

COVID-19 has highlighted the undeniable need for equality in many areas, today we discuss digital inequality. The pandemic gave us no choice but to stay at home. Although this doesn’t increase the need for digital equality (the need has always been there), COVID-19 made digital inequality more obvious. As we move towards a working model which requires us to work remotely, it is essential that the digital world is accessible to everyone.

When thinking about disability, physical accommodations are the first to come to mind. It’s easy to understand why someone who uses a wheelchair would need ramps and elevators. Difficulty accessing online materials is often forgotten or overlooked. Unfortunately, digital accessibility has a long way to go before we can even think of using the term digital equality. That being said, more and more tech companies are investing in making their technology more accessible. This is a massive positive for people living with disabilities. Examples of companies who have realised features that help improve accessibility are:

Google

  • Live Transcribe: this does what it says on the tin. It transcribes speech in real-time, essentially providing users with automatically created subtitles. This application was released as a free beta for Android in February 2019, it is not yet available on Apple devices.
  • Lookout: this app was created to help people with impaired vision ‘get things done faster and more easily’. Lookout uses the camera and sensors on your phone to recognise objects in a room, read grocery labels and much more. This application is currently only available on Android.
  • Auto-Subtitle Extension: this is a browser extension that works on google chrome. It uses speech recognition and machine translation to create subtitles for videos. It can add subtitles to a live broadcast, video chat and video conferences on web pages.

Apple

  • People Detection: this is a feature that helps visually impaired people to detect if others are near them and how close they are.

Facebook

  • Automatic Alt Text (AAT): this feature describes photo content for blind and visually impaired users by using computer vision technology to automatically create descriptions.
  • Instagram's Automatic Captions: users will automatically see captions on IGTV’s, if their phone is on mute. Alternatively, users can turn the captions on via settings. These captions are currently available in 16 languages.

We need to move towards equality in the digital world and the best way to do this is if the big tech companies continue to buy into this initiative. It is important to highlight that when thinking about creating tools that increase accessibility, it is vital that people with disabilities are involved with the process. In the words of Tatiana Lee “How can someone that does not live that experience, design something for someone else?”. Check out this blog for more expert insights into accessibility.

The global pandemic has accelerated our dependency on the digital world  more than ever. Everyday tasks such as food shopping, picking up prescriptions and going to doctor appointments have suddenly moved online - and it doesn't look like this is going to change anytime soon. Check out our blog on how COVID-19 has changed the way people consume online content for more information. To summarise, surveys show that:

  • Approximately 40% of people increased their online shopping
  • 14% of people had more remote appointments with health clinicians

Today, we will mainly focus on increasing video accessibility for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Let's start with some statistics from WHO:

  • Over 5% of people across the globe (or 430 million people) suffer from disabling hearing loss
  • It is estimated that by 2050 over 700 million people (or 1 in every 10 people) will suffer from disabling hearing loss

Now we’ve established the importance of making sure your content is accessible, let's dive into how you can make your videos more accessible for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Firstly, in an ideal world it would make sense for you to add sign language interpreters to your videos. This is probably the gold standard when improving accessibility for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Unfortunately though, this is also the more difficult option. Another way to increase accessibility is to add accurate subtitles to your videos.

Here we will discuss different methods of captioning and their effects on accessibility.

Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)

What is CART? CART is when a trained professional manually transcribes live speech into text in realtime.  CART will provide you with accurate captions, fast & with minimal delay; this is what makes CART the best option for adding captions to videos. Unfortunately this option can be very expensive, and requires a trained professional. CART services can range from between £50 - £200 per hour.

Where is CART often used? CART is used during press conferences. It allows everyone to stay up to date with the latest health guidance and regulations.

Auto-generated captions

What are auto-generated captions? Auto-generated captions are captions that are automatically generated by a computer system. Benefits of auto-generated captions are that they are generally easy to use and they usually don't require much manual input. The process of recognising speech and translating it into text form can be measured by the word error rate (WER). WER is a performance metric that quantifies the accuracy of automatic speech recognition technology. To find out more about WER, give this blog a read.

Negatives of auto-generated captions is that they are not as accurate as manual transcribing of speech. The accuracy of captions are dependent on many factors such are:

  • Speed of speech
  • Audio quality
  • Accents
  • Clarity of speech
  • Plus other variables

Additionally, auto-generated captions cannot differentiate between different speakers, which might pose an issue if your video has more than one person speaking.

That being said, auto-generated captions are a quick and easy win in terms of making your video content more accessible. If you are interested in using this method, sign up to our early access waiting list here.

Where are auto-generated captions used? You can add auto-generated captions to any video by using a platform such as Editr. However, there are a couple of other platforms that can also do this for you such as YouTube, Instagram (for IGTV) and Google Meet.

Manual captioning

What are manual captions? This is when a video is transcribed manually by someone.

Manual captioning is the most popular way of adding captions to pre-recorded content. This is partly because the majority of auto-generated captions require some manual editing to ensure they are as accurate as desired.

Benefits of manually transcribing content is that you are able to make sure the captions are exactly how you want them to be. This method is much more accurate than auto-generating subtitles.

Negatives of this method is that it is much more time consuming than auto-generating your captions. Even with a short video, it takes a lot of time and effort to manually transcribe your video content. On average, it generally takes about 5-10 times the duration of the video to manually caption it. That means that a 5 minute video could take up to 50 minutes to caption.

Where are manual captions used? Anywhere and everywhere! From social media to the captions on Netflix. If the captions you’re reading are very accurate, they will have been completely or partially captioned manually.

Take home messages:

  • It is paramount that we continue to strive towards accessibility for everyone
  • Having a disability is not as rare as we might think, over 15% of the world's population are estimated to live with some form of disability

Of course, accessibility extends beyond those who are deaf or hard of hearing. But like with everything, everyone has to start somewhere.

Adding auto-generated subtitles to your content is the easiest and fastest way to improve your accessibility and subsequently, extend your reach. If this is something you are interested in, feel free to sign up to our early access waiting list.

Together, we can contribute to improving accessibility, one word at a time.