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Media Accessibility: A Complete Guide (2024)

Take a moment to think about your daily engagement with media. Do you present PowerPoints at work? Perhaps watch videos online to follow instructions for your latest DIY project?

We are all inundated with media in our daily lives, and more than ever businesses are turning to this medium to more effectively reach and influence their audience.

But- and there is a but- did you think about all the people who cannot navigate your businesses’ media? Whether it’s a presentation at a conference or your website- there may be elements in your communication that need to step it up and reach accessibility compliance.

In this guide, we’ll cover why media accessibility matters and how your business can reach compliance. Stap on those blue light glasses and roll up your sleeves- here comes your go-to guide for all things media accessibility. We promise this won’t hurt!

What does accessibility have to do with media?

Take a moment to think about how you interact with the world around you on a daily basis. From YouTube videos to commercials to your favorite Netflix binge show- our lives are inundated with video, audio, and other forms of media.

Media accessibility 

For differently-abled individuals, accessing various forms of media can pose immense challenges to their daily lives. Here are just a few examples: 

• A deaf person would not fully understand a video’s context without subtitles.

• Some people find it difficult to focus and comprehend auditory or visual information when there are changing visuals.

• Someone with low vision or blind will need descriptive information or a voiceover to explain what is happening in a video.

Navigating media without tools to help properly understand it sounds pretty tricky and, well, downright unfair. 

Just as an owner of a brick-and-mortar store would install a ramp to allow differently-abled people to access the store, so too do media creators need to think about providing the proper tools to allow all users access to their content.

Enter: the World Wide Web Consortium! Also known as the W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web. It was founded in 1994 and has continued to provide guidance, specifically including ADA compliance. 

Say what? AD… What? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. This act was created in 1990 and has continued to evolve since. 

How can an act evolve? Good question! 

media accessibility guide

Think of the internet in 1990. And think of it today. Quite the difference, isn’t it? Today so much of our lives are based online. You can order your groceries online or even have a medical consultation. 

Along with the significant transformation we’ve undergone to live our lives more digitally comes a pressing need to ensure that all people can access the wonderful things offered online- and media is no exception.

Today, businesses need to meet ADA compliance standards with media to ensure that all users and viewers have equal access to the content. 

Let’s get to it: Accessibility requirements for media

Audio and visual content is hot topic in today’s marketing and media world. Studies have shown that video content is one of the most effective ways to reach your audience, as it can be influential and memorable. 

As we now know, companies need to consider all types of users. Let’s take a closer look at an example. If your company’s website has an embedded video on it with audio and visual elements- you’re probably thinking this is a fantastic tool to reach people with! Right? Wrong-ish! 

You are right- it’s probably a good video, but to truly make it great, you’ll need to ensure it meets accessibility standards. 

Accessibility requirements for media

What does that look like? Different disabilities range from auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, or visual, and each comes with its own set of requirements for meeting accessibility standards. 

Let’s break that down, so it’s more understandable

•Deafness: People who are deaf typically cannot use audio. An alternative representation is required, like synchronized captions or sign translation.

•Physical disabilities like muscle control or missing limbs would have difficulty using a keyboard or mouse to stop, play, and control a video. To meet accessibility standards, the media player must be usable with only a keyboard, including access to all player controls and methods for selecting alternative content.

•It can be dangerous for people prone to seizures to watch a video with many flashing lights in it- so to meet accessibility standards, that video needs an option to reduce those visual components. 

Those are just a few examples of a long list that should be checked when thinking about ensuring your company meets accessibility standards. 

Don’t fret, though- it might seem like a lot to take on, it’s not. And it’s also essential. Next, we’ll dive into how your business can benefit from meeting compliance standards.

How can you benefit as an organization?

We’ve covered why it’s crucial for organizations to meet accessibility standards, but there are other added benefits we haven’t touched on yet. When a business ensures its media is accessible to all users, it can improve the business itself. 

media accessibility for organizations

How you ask? Here are just a few ways:

• Better user experience

• Lower bounce rate

• Better search engine indexing

• Reputation as an accessibility conscious business 

Meeting accessibility standards has a ripple effect on the rest of your business that can boost it for the better; how cool is that?

  Understanding video and audio accessibility

We’ve talked about how vital web accessibility compliance is- but now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of what’s going on and what you need to know. Don’t panic; it’s manageable, and we’re here to walk you through it.

How can your business achieve video and audio compliance?

video and audio compliance

So you want your business to meet accessibility compliance standards? Woohoo! Now, how do you know what you need to do and where to start? 

What accessibility features you provide with your media will likely be influenced by the following factors:

• User needs and business benefits

• Governmental regulations and other policy requirements

• Budget and time constraints

What regulations do you need to follow?

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Let’s discuss regulations because yes, there are some predetermined guidelines your business needs to follow in order to remain compliant. These regulations include information about:

• Closed captioning

• Transcripts

• Sign language

• Media players 

And loads more! Luckily there are some structured guidelines to help you navigate exactly what your business needs.

First up we have the Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as ADA. This act, which is a civil rights law that was enacted in 1990, prohibits discrimination based on disability. And you bet that includes all things media and internet. 

Another important source for regulations is the World Wide Web Consortium or the W3C.

The W3C is the main international standards organization for the internet and provides guidelines for different accessibility standards, including media accessibility.

Audio and video accessibility checklist

Audio and video accessibility checklist

What multimedia you are using will be the main factor in determining what tools you need to have available to ensure your media is accessible. For example, pre-recorded audio and live video may have different requirements. 

Let’s dig in with some checklists, shall we? (Who doesn’t love a good list?!)

Audio checklist

If your business is providing an audio-only form of media, you’ll need the following:

• Transcript (A) separate from the audio

• Captions synchronized with the audio

• Sign language(s)

If the audio is live, the requirements change ever so slightly:

• Transcript (AAA) — live stream or transcript when live

• Captions

• Sign language(s)

Video checklist

Pre-recorded videos should have the following:

• If the video contains speech or other audio that is needed to understand the content, then the video needs:

→Captions (A)

→Transcript of audio information (AAA)

→Sign language(s) (AAA)

→If the video does not require any speech or audio elements to explain the content, simply inform users.

• If the video requires visual information to understand the content, the video will need:

→Audio description of the visual information or descriptive transcript (A)

→Audio description of the visual information (AA)

→Descriptive transcript (AAA) 

→If the video does not require additional visual information, then inform users.

As you can see, different forms of media can sometimes vary significantly in what they require to meet accessibility standards.

 How to make your media accessible?

Ok, you’ve done it! We have arrived at the fun part. It can be exciting to tell your business’s story or reach new audiences through audio and visual elements. While creating and communicating with users, you’ll want to keep some things in mind.

What type of video and audio content should you create?

There are several scripts, storyboarding, and production requirements for video and audio content. These requirements are in line with web content accessibility guidelines. We’ll cover a few so you can familiarize yourself with what we’re talking about. 

video and audio content accessibility

Audio Content 

It’s not enough to create high-quality and accessible audio content with just a microphone. Accessibility touches even how you record the audio and should meet  WCAG AAA requirements.

Here are some of the requirements to adhere to:

• Use high-quality microphone(s) and recording software to ensure good, quality audio.

• The speaker should speak slowly and clearly.

• External sounds will be distracting and hinder some individuals’ ability to hear, so use a room that’s isolated from other sounds when possible.

• Rooms with hard surfaces, such as tile or wood floors, should be avoided.

•Pause between topics to give users a chance to understand and digest the information, 

Video Content

When creating video content, there are some essential factors to keep in mind. Let’s briefly go through some of them: 

• Some individuals rely on mouth movement, like lip reading, to comprehend spoken language, so the speaker’s mouth should be clear, visible, and in good lighting.

• When designing your video, consider that there will be a video of someone using sign language to interpret- most likely in the corner. You’ll want to avoid overlapping with any important visuals or other information.

• Flashing can cause seizures and other unwanted side effects, so avoid anything that flashes more than three times with the span of one second.

But how does this work, exactly?

Avoid the urge to get overwhelmed now that we’ve made it this far. The fun is just beginning! Let’s tackle a real-world example to help explain accessibility requirements for media. 

Users of your content who are blind or have low vision may rely on a description of the visual information to understand the video. How might this look in an actual situation for your business? 

Media accessibility audio and video

Instead of saying, “As you can see in the chart, sample A rapidly outgrew sample B.”

Be more descriptive by saying, “Sample A outgrew sample B by 8 grams over a three-day period.”

Do you see the difference there? The details count! 

Who can make your business’s media accessible?

Now you might be saying, this is all well and good, but who can make my organization’s media accessible? You might have a lot of content built up over the years and think this will either be a massive headache or incredibly pricey. 

Think again. 

By outsourcing your compliance needs to accessiBe, you essentially hand over your media to the real pros. 

accessiBe accessibility plugin

  • WCAG
  • ADA
  • Section 508 Compliant
  • AODA

accessiBe combines two different applications to help website owners become fully ADA compliant. The first is the accessibility interface which runs in the foreground of your site. This is what gives website visitors the option to adjust UI and design elements on your site to meet their needs.


  • Simple, affordable, effortless, and compliant worldwide
  • 7-day free trial
  • Account managers available to guide you through the product, pricing, and any questions you may have
  • Fast turnaround with a 5 min installation, and 48-hour compliance process


  • Built specifically for websites and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)- some web apps might not be compatible

Existing Clients


You’ve made it through accessibility requirements for media.

You have taken a journey through history and learned about the Americans with Disabilities Act.  You now can talk about W3C like a pro. You understand why businesses need to take accessibility seriously and provide equal access to all types of users.

You’ve discovered how meeting compliance standards can have some pretty sweet and positive impacts on your business. You even understand the intricacies of audio and visual accessibility requirements.

You’re ready to take on media accessibility requirements and ensure all kinds of users can interact with and learn more about your organization.

Go forth and do good!


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