New access features coming to YouTube

Audio DescriptionCool Blind Tech, a Canadian company who sources news about new assistive technology for blind and low vision users reported this week that YouTube is coming out with several access improvements that will make the service my accessible to people with disabilities.

Quoting from their blog

YouTube is improving video accessibility for both viewers with vision loss and other languages. The company is testing the option of adding multiple audio tracks to videos. This will help with international viewers, of course, but it should also enable descriptive audio for people with some vision to no vision. This arrives sometime in the “coming quarters,” YouTube said.

The announcement of the inclusion of the additional audio track will allow users to add Audio/Video Description to their YouTube videos. The terms Audio Description and Video Description are sometimes used interchangeably although the FCC has recently stated Audio Description to be the preferred term. The term, used in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, is the agreed upon international terminology for audibly describing the visual elements of videos, on-stage performances, and subjects at museum and art galleries.

Although Audio Description has been around for many years, it only recently became part of Section 508 requirements. Content creators have struggled to meet the requirement as an open source video playback solution that allows for multiple audio tracks has not be available. While not open source, the announcement from YouTube will give video content developers a new – and free – tool to meet the requirement. Currently, the only solution on YouTube was to create two videos, one with Audio Description, and one without.