Audio-visual accessibility: a growing market
Audio-visual accessibility services like subtitles, close caption, audio description or sign language are more and more necessary for people with a visual or hearing disability who want to fully enjoy access to media contents on TV or videos on the internet. For the time being, accessibility services concern at least 15% of the world population with about 10% of deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) and 5% for blind or sight-impaired. This category of population is expected to increase in the coming decades due to population ageing.
In the US, providing audio-visual accessibility services to persons with disabilities have been considered to serve an important public interest regarding the dominant role television plays in us society. That’s why US regulators like the Federal Communications Commission push since 1995 congress to required video programming distributors (cable operators, broadcasters, satellite distributors and other multi-channel video programming distributors) to close caption their TV programs.
In Europe, providing audio-visual accessibility services has not been voted so far by regulators to be fully mandatory for all TV channels distributors. Only some public channels commit to provide accessibility services into their programs.
In 2010, the European Commission extends the audio-visual media services (AVMS) directive regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. This directive aims at pushing media service providers to ensure that their services are gradually made accessible to people with a visual or hearing disability. Since May 2016, European Union of the Deaf pushes European Commission to amend the current version of this directive to include compulsory requirements for accessibility services.
The ImAc (Immersive Accessibility) project fits fully into this logic by not accepting that accessibility is regarded as an afterthought. On the contrary, it should be considered throughout the design, production and delivery process. Thus, outcomes of this project like tools to integrate accessibility services within immersive media will be available at the right time to fulfil future needs of the audio-visual accessibility upcoming market.
Accessibility services: how to kill two birds with one stone
Since accessibility services are going to be soon mandatory for all TV channel distributors, having tools to produce such services will be come mainstream. Although this is an additional cost for content production, offering quality accessibility will provide more quality to your audience and will allow to widen the usages of accessibility content at many other fields like for example education with foreign language learning, karaoke, indexation and search, augmented reality with the addition of overlay subtitles …
But it appears that there is one field where accessibility brings an actual disruption: accessibility content allow indeed to boost video consumption on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, … ) and web search video (YouTube). Studies demonstrate that subtitles increase video viewing by 40%  !!
Our view is that video producers/distributors early adopting these technologies will definitively have an advantage on their competitors. Netflix is showing the way in the U.S. but the market remains very open for the European market.
Accessibility improves engagement for all your audience
With the addition of videos in social media timelines (Facebook, Twitter, …) people have started to be exposed to many video contents. With current mobile social applications, people start to swipe with their finger to move from one video content to the next. With an average of 4 hours of content consumption per day and a swipe every 2 seconds on average, people can be exposed to 7200 contents every day. Some studies show that people swipe more than 2500 times a day, which corresponds in distance with their finger to the size of the Statue of Liberty!
That’s so much noise in people’s brain that your content may not take on its full meaning.
To improve this matter of fact most platforms allow to put a thumbnail before the video starts. However as soon as the video starts it becomes useless.
Thus, subtitles appear to be the perfect solution by providing quick and easy to read text corresponding to the underlying video.
In more general cases, most people consume content as if their perception is degraded:
- Watching the first two seconds of a video and then swipe to the next one
- Watching videos at work with no audio
- Watching videos when doing many other tasks
This is exactly the type of constraints accessibility deals with: showing the most important information.
So far, only 3% of providers offer subtitles for video on demand. But having subtitles for on-demand internet content seems to be so essential that many people push to activate regulator to have subtitles mandatory for on-demand video also.