DO-IT: A Promising Practice in Designing Accessible Videos

Date Updated

Multimedia can be an engaging instructional tool. Multimedia is increasingly delivered to students through CDs, DVDs, and streaming videos on the web. Multimedia, however, must be captioned and audio-described in order to avoid creating accessibility barriers for some individuals, including those with hearing impairments and those with blindness. The AccessIT Knowledge Base article How do I make multimedia accessible? provides an overview of accessibility problems and solutions, and the article How can educational entities plan an accessible video production? describes specific steps in applying principles of universal design toward developing an accessible multimedia product.

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) at the University of Washington serves to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers. It promotes the use of computer and network technologies to increase independence, productivity, and participation in education and employment. In keeping with this mission, DO-IT staff are committed to fully harnessing the ability of technology to foster inclusive communication. DO-IT has produced more than twenty training video presentations since 1992. These are designed to be presented to groups of students with disabilities, parents, educators, postsecondary disability services staff, employers, and other individuals who work with people who have disabilities. DO-IT uses a "universal design" approach to the creation of its videotapes, taking into account the wide variety of characteristics of potential viewers during the design process. For more information about universal design, consult the AccessIT Knowledge Base article What is universal design?

In the design of a typical DO-IT video, individuals with disabilities are consulted regarding content, format, and presentation. Input is provided through focus groups, surveys, and individual consultations. Throughout the creation of product drafts, individuals who have a broad range of abilities and disabilities and who represent key stakeholders provide formative input. Careful consideration is given during scripting to ensure that most critical content is spoken (including acknowledgments and content information at the end of the presentation) and that enough silence is provided to accommodate audio description that will be added to versions that are fully accessible to viewers who are blind. Similarly, photographers of DO-IT videos are careful during filming to include adequate screen space for captions and have even affixed duct tape to the bottom of their viewing screens to prevent them from filming key details in the area where captions will appear. DO-IT also presents its captions in a large font and both upper- and lowercase letters, since some viewers with hearing impairments may additionally have visual impairments. Audio-described versions (where key visual content is described with additional narration) are available for all DO-IT video productions.

DO-IT video presentations that are designed for training purposes are open captioned. This means that the captions are always in view. Closed captions, in contrast, can be turned on and off. Open captioning was selected for these specific DO-IT products because they are often used with large audiences in which viewers might benefit from the captions because they have hearing impairments, because English is not their first language, or because they are viewing the presentations in noisy environments such as conference exhibits. In addition, when the speech of all speakers is open-captioned, additional translation for speakers who have speech impairments is not required. In most DO-IT videos, at least one presenter has a speech impairment; captioning their portion of the presentation gives access to the content to those who cannot understand their speech. The AccessIT Knowledge Base article What is the difference between open and closed captioning? provides information that can help videotape presentation developers decide which type of captioning is most appropriate for their purpose.

Examples of DO-IT videos are freely available on the web in RealPlayer™ or Windows™ Media™ Player format. To view them, go to the DO-IT Video Presentations page.

For more information about what to consider when making a video that is accessible to all viewers view the video Making Videos Accessible.