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Making your media accessible | Deaf Awareness Month

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Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome. Today, this is kind of based on a comment I had on my first video for this month. I want to talk about how you should be making your content—whether that’s videos, pictures, art, etc.—as accessible to everyone as you can. It is challenging, and certainly not one-size-fits-all. I’ll be talking about accessibility for deaf people and blind people, plus that intersection, DeafBlind.

First, let’s do the obvious one: captions. This is something we deaf people have been harping on about *forever* so this should be no surprise. Obviously, caption your videos on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Unfortunately, Instagram does not yet have a built-in captioning tool, so that requires a different process. That’s the obvious. But I would add: caption your TikToks. Caption your Instagram Reels. Caption your Instagram Stories. Caption. Every. Thing. If you speak, caption it. And personally, I think this applies to EVERYONE, including deaf people. Yes, I know. Hearing people leave us out all the time, so why shouldn’t we leave THEM out. But you forget that there are deaf people who don’t know sign. Those who are still learning and can’t use your videos to help them learn. THAT is not fair to them. If we deaf people also refuse to do captions, why would that encourage hearing people to do captions themselves? *gives a look* Caption. Captions aren’t just giving access to deaf people, which is probably the primary reason, yes. But people who have other disabilities, English isn’t their primary language, and many other things, benefit from captions. Even native English speakers benefit from them if they need to have the sound muted, miss something that was said, or can’t understand because of mumbling, an accent, or any other sound issues. Captions benefit a much bigger segment of the population than people think.

The next thing I want to talk about is transcripts. This is basically just everything you say but typed up in a doc. THIS DOES NOT REPLACE CAPTIONS. It should be provided in addition to captions. Transcripts typically will have just what’s being said, and who’s saying it, but that’s it. You can add some info at the beginning, like a short description of the people who are in the video. Who are transcripts for? Everyone actually benefits from these too. They’re often for blind users who might not want to listen to a video, or DeafBlind users who can’t hear, wouldn’t be able to access the captions and would read instead. Sometimes, they might be able to see the video, but it’s easier for them to read the black and white text. That could be because the lighting in the video is poor, the background is busy, the shirt on the person is distracting or not solid enough to be able to see signs. There are a lot of reasons why someone would prefer a transcript over watching a video. For sighted and hearing people, we can benefit from them too! If we want to quote a specific line, or search for something we saw while watching the video, we can just use the find function instead of re-watching the video. I do that sometimes with my own videos. I don’t do *transcripts* but I do blog posts, which act as transcripts, but formatted as a post rather than a big text block, with pictures included if it’s fitting, such as my book wrap ups. That leads into the next thing.

This is more specific to blind people in general. Whenever you post pictures, they should come with image descriptions. These generally describe what’s in the image. It doesn’t have to be every little detail, but enough that people understand what’s in the picture. Generally of whatever’s the focus in the picture with broad strokes for the surroundings. I’ve been doing image descriptions on my pictures for years, it’s become habit by now. It’s not a very difficult thing to do, just one small extra step before posting something. You might sometimes see video descriptions, but those are generally used to describe broadly what a video looks like, and used in conjunction with transcripts. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice that I put them directly in the caption. There’s a reason for this. Instagram does have a setting where you can add alt text to an image, which works…for very specific purposes. You’re able to access that ID only if you have a screen reader or the equivalent. Hearing blind people are able to use accessibility features on Apple, or a lot of other options that will read things out loud. DeafBlind people have more limited options, and often have only the option of a Braille screen reader. Many DeafBlind people don’t have one, because it can be really expensive, so they’re not able to access the information in the alt text. Also, from my understanding, accessibility tech isn’t always the best when it comes to Braille and converting data. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was largely because the focus is put on audio-based things. So that’s why I always put my IDs directly in the caption, and that’s why you’ll see many deaf organizations starting to do the same.

I’m just going to throw this out, even though it’s not something I do for fairly obvious reasons. Doing voiceovers and audio descriptions when possible is good. When I say voiceover, I’m specifically talking about voicing over for signing. I’d say this would be something I’d encourage organizations to do rather than individuals because it can be a lot of additional work for one person to do. Voiceovers and audio descriptions provide access in another way for those who rely on hearing or that in combination with other things. Audio descriptions are similar to image descriptions, they describe what’s happening in the video and what it looks like. I’m not going in-depth about this because it’s not my area of expertise. If this is something you need or are considering doing, Google is your bestie!

What I’ve said in this video so far is just the start. It might take time and practice to become comfortable doing all of this, but it’s worth it to make all of your content accessible to as many people as possible. It’s okay to make mistakes, at least you’ll be trying! It’s better to do that than not and end up not giving access at all. Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. That’s all for today, bye.

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