Web Accessibility: Auditory

David SpearsBack “in the day” the Internet was primarily used for the sharing of text only and perhaps a graph or two among collegiate professionals. Since its introduction to the public it has grown to include a variety of different styles of text, images and audio. In fact, I watched a short weather report from a local news station on the Internet just this morning before work. So with all the many new advancements in technology, how can we be sure the audio portion is accessible to folks who are hard of hearing or deaf?

Well that’s easy: by incorporating captions and transcripts, that’s how!

Captions
Captions are the textual content that is shown at the bottom of the television screen that lets the user know or read what the people are saying. Often, captions will also include a text description of sounds that objects make, like music playing in the background and other similar background noise. Captions are also beneficial to people whose primary language is something other than English. Workforce Solutions operates in one of the most multi-lingual cities in the U.S., and therefore definitely benefits substantially from captioning technologies.

Audio and visual information on the Internet should also have captioning present. Fortunately, several platforms, such as YouTube, can automatically include captioning. The user may need to edit the automated captioning, but with only minor editing in most cases (of course, the creator of the video can help by paying particular attention to annunciation). The YouTube video just to the right helps to explain automatic captioning, including timing effects. This video was a part of the official Google Blog announcing “automatic captions” on YouTube in November, 2009.

Transcripts
Having a written or printed version of the audio presentation is an additional medium of accessibility. They are also beneficial to people without hearing difficulty simply for more in depth analysis of new information.

To provide quality accessibility, transcripts should include descriptions, explanations or comments in addition to the spoken words for a fuller understanding of what is being said. In other words, right now I’m [listening to music] as I write this blog which I feel is important to include within my dialog. Since the reader is not able to hear the music, I will let them know by including an additional comment.

Also, having a transcript may save time for the user. For example, screen reader users may read quicker using Braille than watching a captioned video. In fact, most screen reader users actually prefer transcripts.

Audio Descriptions
Audio descriptions simply describe what is being presented on the screen. This can be especially helpful to those who have low vision or blindness in order to help visualize what they can hear. With technology today, audio descriptions can be included in websites at a minimal cost.

These tools together, as well as growth in technology, can provide affordable means to include accessibility on the Web.

David Spears is a member of the Workforce Solutions Navigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.



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