Visual content: Can everyone use your website?

Previously, we covered how to ensure your website is friendly to visitors using screen readers and visitors who are colorblind. However, these visual accommodations aren’t the only accessibility features you should consider for your website. Other issues can keep visitors from using your site as well. Specifically consider testing your site for visitors with limited vision proximity, and use captions on videos to ensure anyone can “hear” them.

Proximity

We’ve covered screen readers and color contrast before, but there are also a few other visual considerations you should make for your site. People who have glaucoma and some other visual limitations may have diminished peripheral vision and cannot see the whole screen at once. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you keep corresponding elements of your page together. Think of it as an action and a reaction. For example, if you’re describing a button to click to go to another page, place the button near the text describing it. If you have the descriptive text on one side of the page and the button far away on the other side, someone lacking normal peripheral vision may have difficulty finding it.

You’ll also want to ensure your pages follow a logical flow. For websites using left-to-right languages like English (and most other languages other than Hebrew and Japanese), place the action in a place it will be seen before the reaction. Don’t place a button to the left of the text explaining what it does. Don’t add an “agree to terms” check box underneath a submit button. Make sure the order your content is viewed follows a logical order for it to be seen.

Hearing impairments

Hearing issues can also limit one’s ability to consume certain types of content. Although sound effects and background music are no longer popular choices for websites — nor should they be — video is increasingly popular on the web. If you embed videos on your website and the audio is an essential part of the content — for example, if you’re talking — ensure your videos are closed-captioned. Of course, this will not only help your help hearing-impaired visitors; it will also help anyone viewing your website with their device volume turned down or off. Because many mobile apps like YouTube and Facebook now begin videos with audio turned off by default and users must tap a button to enable sound, video captions are more important than ever.

SubRip (SRT) captions

Creating captions manually isn’t a complicated process, but it can be tedious. SubRip files — using a .srt extension — are common and easy to create manually, and they’re compatible with a variety of websites and applications, including Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Windows Media Player, VLC, Camtasia, and more. You can create SubRip files as text files. Use a basic text editor such as TextEdit for Mac or Notepad for PC. Each caption contains three lines: the caption number, start and end time, and text. Then add a blank line in between each. Captions will look like the following:

1
0:00:00,000 --> 0:00:02,000
This is the first caption.

2
0:00:03,000 --> 0:00:05,500
This is the second caption.

Start and end times are entered in the format hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds — note the comma before milliseconds. Be sure to use the same arrow format seen above to separate the start and end time. In the above example, “This is the first caption.” would display (without the quotes) from the time the video starts to exactly two seconds in, and “This is the second caption.” would display from 3 seconds in to 5.5 seconds in. Add more captions using the same method. Save the text file with a .srt extension — for example, captions.srt (not .txt) — and upload it to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and anywhere else you use the video.

Manual entry for captions

Many sites also allow you to enter captions manually. On YouTube, for example, you can type in the text and timings in the Subtitles/CC tab in the Video Manager on YouTube Creator Studio.

These sites can also create automatic captions. Be warned, however, that their accuracy is only decent. Automatic captions tend to run sentences together, divide phrases oddly, and don’t always use punctuation. For these reasons, the quality of your captions will be much improved if you manually enter them or use SRT files.

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