Next-generation technologies are enabling companies to make the world a more inclusive place. Most organizations are aware of accessibility requirements for learning and development (L&D) content, but many do not know what steps they can take to improve access for learners who are blind or visually impaired. Adding audio description to video content is a crucial step in making training content more accessible.

Let’s explore what audio description is, why L&D leaders should improve the accessibility of their content, and what steps they can take to add audio description to their learning content libraries.

What Is Audio Description?

Audio description, or the narration of a video’s visual elements, makes video content more accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired. The narration guides listeners through what is happening on screen with concise, objective descriptions. These descriptions are generally placed over the video in the natural pauses between dialogue.

Why Improve Learning and Development Accessibility?

1. To Prevent Costly Lawsuits

Accessibility compliance is crucial for organizations subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Broadcasters in particular are subject to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which includes the online delivery of broadcast television programs. In many states, it’s illegal for companies to discriminate against individuals based on physical disability, including visual impairment. The University of Berkeley, Netflix, AMC Theatres and the musical “Hamilton” have all faced lawsuits or managed negotiations for failing to provide audio-described content. These legal actions were pursued by the Department of Justice, the American Council of the Blind and private individuals. In these states, companies that release video content without audio description leave themselves open to discrimination lawsuits.

2. To Contribute to Workplace Inclusion Efforts

Being inclusive of all audiences is not just good legal and business sense; it also helps promote a more fair and just workplace. In recent years, leading companies are taking steps to increase diversity, equity and inclusion. Improving access for people who are blind or visually impaired is an important step in building an inclusive workplace.

3. To Help All Learners Retain Information

Accessibility improvements don’t just benefit employees with disabilities. Audio description reinforces learning through the verbal reinforcement of what learners are seeing on screen. People who are multitasking but still want to engage with a video can also benefit from audio description. Watching video content while cooking, driving or walking is common, so audio descriptions can enable these audiences to easily switch between audiovisual and podcast-style listening.

How to Add Audio Descriptions to Video Content

When looking for an audio description vendor to suit your video needs, make sure to consider the following steps:

First, understand what the law requires of you. Then, decide which groups your organization wants to include in your learning audience. While you may not be subject to accessibility laws, you may still want to make your videos accessible to your learners with visual impairment.

Next, consider your specific video needs:

    • How many minutes or hours of video do you need to have described?
    • How quickly do you need them?
    • What quality level do you require?
    • How challenging is your video to describe? Are there a limited number of gaps in the dialogue or any complex visual or technical elements?
    • Do you need your videos described in multiple languages?
    • What level of customer service do you require?

Knowing how to select the right audio description vendor comes down to having a solid understanding of your video content and target audience. The answers to these questions will help you narrow your search and find a provider that fits your needs.

Hopefully, this article has helped to shed light on why it’s crucial for learning and development leaders to improve content accessibility for learners who are blind or visually impaired, as well as how to do so. Companies that provide audio description for their videos avoid costly lawsuits, improve workplace inclusion and create a better learning experience for all.