Closed Captions and Accessibility Law

The ADA and Section 508 requirements

Current media usage, both in the classroom and on the web, often presents barriers to persons with disabilities. As more web and classroom content includes video and audio components at the University of Maryland, there is an increasing need for captioning, as well as audio description.

Under the ADA and section 508 Refresh, captioning and audio description are necessary and required to make audio and audiovisual media accessible. Section 508 Refresh incorporates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 by reference and applying Level A and Level AA success criteria and conformance requirements to websites, as well as to non-web electronic documents and software.

Descriptive audio, also referred to as video description, is an additional narrative track intended primarily for persons who are blind or have low vision and use visual media. Audio description consists of a narrator talking through the presentation, describing what is happening on the screen during natural pauses in the audio.

The demand for captioning far exceeds the need for audio description at the University of Maryland. This knowledge article focuses on guidelines and resources for captioning.

UMD Web Accessibility Standards

Aligned to ADA and section 508 requirements, the University of Maryland Web Accessibility Standards (effective Dec 2016) determine that all institutional websites, Web applications and Web content (i.e. including all media) produced, managed and/or hosted by the University of Maryland or by third-party companies should, at a minimum, conform to the Web Consortium Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.0 level AA.

WCAG 2.0 Guidelines for Audio and Video

WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.1— "An alternative for time-based media is provided that presents equivalent information for prerecorded audio-only content." (level A) A descriptive text transcript (including all relevant visual and auditory clues and indicators) is provided for non-live, web-based audio (audio podcasts, MP3 files, etc.). If you use audio files on your Web or course page, a text transcript or other text-based material should be provided. If video files are used, captions or a synchronized text transcript should be provided.

WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.2—"Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such." (level A) Synchronized captions are provided for non-live, web-based video (YouTube, Vimeo, Panopto, Videos posted on ELMS-Canvas, Webex pre-recorded videos, etc.). Video files should be embedded or displayed in a player that can be accessed by a screen reader via keyboard commands.

Choosing Accessible Players

When choosing how to deliver your video, it is important to consider options that are fully accessible. Examples of accessible players include: QuickTime, RealPlayeriTunes, YouTube and properly configured JW Player. Whether you are selecting a media player plugin or module for your website or selecting a service to host your videos, the following questions should be answered about the available options:

WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.3— "An alternative for time-based media or audio description of the prerecorded video content is provided for synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such". (Level A) A descriptive text transcript OR audio description audio track is provided for non-live, web-based video.

It is also very important to ensure that all functionality is available from a keyboard. WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.1—"Make all functionality available from a keyboard." Videos that include visual information critical to comprehension should include a description of events or images for visually impaired audiences. For example, a screencast of a software product should name the buttons and commands being used, not just say "click here".

For additional information consult WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines.

See also The University of Maryland Web Accessibility Standards (KB0012431).