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Screen Reader Demo: Navigating Media

Media is a great way to share content in an engaging way. You can present images and audio in a way that tells a story, demonstrates a process, or celebrates an achievement. More than other types of content, media requires attention to accessibility requirements from the very beginning. Unlike images or text, media requires more production time and it’s much more challenging to make accessible once it’s published.

You can think of media as a series of moving images. Just like images require alternative text to be accessible, media requires alternatives to be accessible. Unlike static images, media requires alternatives for both the audio and the images. For audio, provide an alternative in the form of captions or transcripts. For images, provide an alternative with audio description or a descriptive transcript.

Common Barriers with media

The most common barriers with media include challenging media players, lack of captions, and lack of descriptions.

1. Challenging Media Players

Some media players are more accessible than others. A good practice to help users navigate the player more effectively is to identify your content with headings and descriptions.

A heading can alert non-visual users that a media player is located in that section of the page. A brief description of the video, including any accessibility features or lack thereof, can also provide non-visual users with crucial details about the content. This gives users the chance to skip over the video if it’s not accessible and instead access a different version, like a separate audio described version or descriptive text transcript.

2. Lack of Captions

When you have dialogue or sounds in your audio track that are critical to understanding the information, they must be included within a caption track.

Captions are a time coded transcript of the dialogue that includes a textual representation of the background noises, sound effects, and speaker identification. May appear at the bottom, top, or side of the screen. Captions can be open (always present and can not be turned off) or closed (turned on or off by the viewer).

Example of Video with Captions

In this video, Web Accessibility Perspectives: Video Captions, learn how captions provide greater accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, may be watching a video in an environment that is too loud or that needs to be quiet, or who prefer reading along as they watch the video.

Video contains captions, but is not audio described. Access a Text Transcript with Description of Visuals for Video Captions at Web Accessibility Perspectives.

3. Lack of Descriptions

When your media includes images that are critical to understanding the information, they must be described. One of the best ways to include audio description is to make it a part of your script.

Example Video with Integrated Audio Description

In this example video, Low Vision: Challenging assumptions and understanding the differences, the speaker is describing the important content as part of the narration. As a result, the information is also included in the audio track and provided captions.

Example Video with Additional Audio Description

In this example video, Web Accessibility Perspectives: Text to Speech, there are additional audio descriptions voiced with a different narrator to describe the action happening in the scene. This is an example of standard audio description, or additional audio track that describes what is occurring in a video during existing pauses in dialog.

Examples of Inaccessible Media

Here are two examples of inaccessible media. Both examples contain text and audio. The text isn’t described in the audio and there isn’t a transcript provided. We also haven’t labeled the videos with a heading to let users know that a media player is present in the section.

Example of More Accessible Media

Spring 2021 Dance Concert

For the Spring 2021 Dance Concert video we labeled the video with a heading and the associated accessibility features in the media. Additionally, we provided a text transcript of the content on the same page as the embedded media. The text transcript includes time-stamps of the individual sections. This is helpful if a viewer wants to quickly find a specific segment of the video to watch.

Access Student Dance Concert Video (opens in a new window)

Three tips to make your next media project more accessible

Here are three tips to help you make your next media project more accessible. You can also access more resources at Webguide: Video and Audio Content Accessibility Resources, or W3C: Making Audio and Video Media Accessible.

1. Describe what you see

As you are drafting your script, introduce speakers and describe important visuals or text on the screen. Having this information right in the script makes recording the audio for your media project more accessible right from the start and saves you from needing to create a separate video with standard or extended audio description.

2. Caption what you hear

As you are captioning your media, think about all the different sounds present in the audio track. It’s not only important to provide captions for the words spoken, but also identify who is speaking and if there are relevant sound effects (music, crash off screen, drum beats, rushing water, etc) the user should know about to understand the content.

3. Publish with headings and descriptions

As demonstrated on this page, adding a heading and brief description about what’s in the media or where to find an accessible alternative can provide crucial context to users and help them navigate the content more successfully.


If you’d like to learn more about writing image descriptions, check out the resources available on Webguide: Accessibility Resources and Guides. You can also reach out to the OIT Accessibility Team at