In this section we'll try to answer some frequently asked questions, and keep adding to the page as we get more.

The short answer to most questions is not hard to think through yourself if you can make these three statements:

  • I have thought about users who can't hear my resource/tool/event/content, and I will meet their needs with _________.
  • I have thought about users who can't see my resource/tool/event/content, and I will meet their needs with _________.
  • I have thought about users who can't operate* my resource/tool/event/content, and I will meet their needs with _________.

*Users who can't operate something might not be able to use a mouse for a computer based application, use a staircase because of a mobility limitation, etc.

Can we use live video streaming through services like Facebook or Youtube?

It is possible to use Facebook Live or other social media/streaming services in an accessible way.  You need to think about the users who can't see your content, and the users who can't hear it.  Typically we provide live captions for users who can't hear content, and text alternatives for users who can't see it. 


Facebook livestream video has the capacity to display captions, but a live stream source that wants captions will have to work with a third-party provider to caption the stream, much in the same way that live TV is captioned. These services are available, we have state-negotiated contracts with several agencies, and we can help interested parties connect with a vendor and figure out how to make it happen. 

These services are not free, so content producers need to think about setting aside some budget for that.  The rates the Video team pays to our video caption provider are just under $100/hour. 

As an alternative (if you can't afford the time and money to provide live captions) would be to not stream live, but present recorded video with manually created captions. Video that is not live can have captions added after the fact, using any number of tools. Those captions can be created for free using a combination of automatic captioning and human editing to make sure the captions are clean and accurate.  This is free, but does require some sweat equity.  


Text Alternatives (For People who can’t see content):

One of the places where we are exposed and don’t have great options in platforms like Youtube and Facebook is if there is action on the screen that is part of the meaning of the video, and that is not expressed as part of the audio track.  This content and meaning is not accessible to a visually impaired user.

In major motion picture productions we are starting to see additional audio tracks that describe the action in the film to users who can’t see the activity.  That isn’t an option through Youtube or Facebook without offering alternative versions of the video with those additional audio cues added. 

Because the technical ability doesn’t exist, this is something we need to deal with by making sure that the important information that is conveyed in the video is also conveyed in an “equally effective, alternative access” way.  In most cases, we should include a text description of the visual content of a video if we can't convey the visual conten through the video's audio track. 


Where does it say we have to have captions? How accurate do they need to be?

The WSU policy that you’re looking for is 8.11.

The specific spot you want is section 2.a.4:

Website development and purchases, including development and purchases for major revisions and updates of existing WSU websites, will conform to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA.

The WCAG standards require captions for all video.  

There you want to focus on guideline 1.2.  Part 1.2.4 specifically addresses live video:

Captions are provided for all live audio content in synchronized media.

What the WCAG does not provide is guidance on the level of accuracy required for captions.  Often the folks selling human captioning service will give you a percentage of accuracy that is acceptable, but the FCC set standards in 2014 that do not allow for a percentage of error, and simply require that they be accurate.  The FCC standards also require the identification of speakers and punctuation, both of which are not possible with ACS-only solutions.  The National Association of the Deaf has a page that has a more digestible version of those standards.

Human captioning of live events is not 100% accurate, but it remains the standard that we need to achieve. A less expensive solution, like ACS, is not a reasonable alternative if it is not as accruate as human captioning.  For ACS to be accepted as an adequate solution it would have to substantially equivalent accuracy to human captioning.

Is it okay to use Automatic Captions rather than paid captions?

Automatic caption systems s have some significant shortcomings. To begin with, even the most accurate systems can make mistakes, and those mistakes can be very embarrassing or confusing. Also, there are FCC requirements that automatic captions typically don't or can't provide -- like punctuation and identifying speakers. 

For that reason, we don't recommend using only automatic captions without at least human review and editing, for most content. 

Accuracy in captioning is especially critical for content that is critical to the mission of what we do. Instructional content, informational content, content -- like faculty or student senate meetings -- that are public records and subject to open records laws -- should always be captioned in the most accurate way possible. 

The alternative to captions is often an equally effective alternative access version of the content, when possible -- but that alternative should be available at the same time as the original content.  So, providing a transcript or captions after an event that is live-streamed without those captions is a violation of the accessibility standard.

Please explain  Equally Effective Alternative Access?

The ideal is always to create content in a way that is accessible to everyone.  However, in some cases that simply isn't possible, or is prohibitively difficulty to do.

In those cases we can meet the accessibility standard by providing an "Equally Effective, Alternative Access" version of the content. 

The Equally Effective Alternative Access version is an alterative presentation of the information, content, or experience that a user could use instead of the primary presentation. 

There are some key ideas to keep in mind when we talk about these alternatives:

  • Same Time.  These alternative versions of the content need to be available to the user at the same time as the original content is available to the primary audience.  In practice this usually means it needs to be available ahead of time.  The means that a transcript or captions provided after an event is not a sufficient alternative access version of the content because the user does not have access to it at the same time as the people who are watcing the original.
  • Equally Effective. This alternative version should be equivalent in experience and effect as the original. This is obviously a very subjective standard  that will need to be determined for every use case.

Examples of good use of the equally effective, alternative access option in practice:

  • WSU provides an audio podcast version of the information that is broadcast on digital signage screens across campus. 
  • Many offices that send out highly-designed graphic post cards as promotions for upcoming events also include the details of the event in the body text of the email.
What about social media?

We don't need to worry about the accessibility of things like posts on Facebook or Twitter, right?

Actually, that's not true.  And lawsuits are being filed against many universities across the country for using social media without proper accessibility measures. 

  • Text presented in social medai, because it's digital, is almost always accesible.
  • Images should have a text description. Some platforms provide special functionality for that, but it always possible to make sure that the text that accommpanies an image conveys what's in the image (or important information in the image) for the user.
  • Video should have captions. Including live streamed video. It is also a good idea to include a description of the imporant action in the video for users who can't see it. 
  • Audio should be accompianied by a transcript for users who can't hear the audio.