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Accessibility

Accessibility features

Operating systems

Most operating systems these days have accessibility features built into them. For instance:

Microsoft Office

Office 365 has a number of accessibility features, including dictation, reading aloud, and live subtitling.

It also has an accessibility checker to help you in the creation of accessible documents.

Google Docs & Slides

Google Docs and Google Slides have "Type with your voice", which enables you to dictate. Whilst not as accurate as some tools, it is quite reliable. It works in around 40 languages and is found under the “Tools” tab.

If you are using screen magnification software or braille conversion software, you will need to activate the accessibility settings in Google Docs. These options are under “Tools” then “Accessibility Settings”.

Google Chrome

If you are using Google Chrome as your default browser, there are a few settings which can improve access there. Font size can be changed by selecting the "⋮" menu at the end of the browser toolbar, and then selecting "Settings" from the drop down menu. Any changes you make to browser display would then be applied to webpages you visit through the browser (e.g. enlarging font across each website you visit), which should give a more consistent appearance between webpages, and can also help with migraines.

There are also some free Chrome extensions which might be of interest. We would only recommend using extensions and apps from trusted providers - those created by the manufacturers such as Google, Windows and Apple are typically the safest and most reliable for use with their products. Google has created two free Chrome browser extensions which may be of use for a more comfortable online reading experience:

Accessibility links

Creating accessible materials

If you're creating documents, there are a few pointers to easily improve accessibility:

  • Favour a sans-serif font – sans-serif fonts usually render clearer on digital displays.
  • Use a decent font size – as monitors get bigger, so do readable font sizes. Currently, anything less than 12pt is going to be quite small.
  • Caption images – provide explanatory text, either as a caption or as "alt text".
  • Ensure sufficient contrast between any text and the background. This will assist reading on screen generally but is especially important in ensuring accessibility for those with visual impairments or colour blindness.

Subtitling videos

On-the-fly

PowerPoint and Google Slides can both provide live subtitles. A simple way to record subtitles for a screencast is to piggyback on a PowerPoint presentation:

  • Start a blank presentation going (and turn on subtitling)
  • Alt-tab (or Cmd-tab) to the window you want to screencast and resize it so that the PowerPoint subtitles are still visible below it on the screen.
  • Record the whole screen so that the window and the subtitles are both in shot.

Be aware that, since this relies on having PowerPoint running beneath your other windows, you won't be able to show your desktop.

Here's an example of the PowerPoint method.

This approach is ok for quick, dirty subtitles, but they'll contain errors, there's a delay in them appearing (by which time the video has moved on), and they're 'burnt-in' into the video. So really you should look to making some proper stand-alone subtitles...

Stand-alone subtitling

Perhaps the easiest way to auto-generate subtitles for a video is to upload your video to YouTube. YouTube will generate automatic captions which you can then edit.

Here's the same video as above, after we cropped off the PowerPoint captions, uploaded to YouTube and tidied up the captioning. You can use the subtitle options in the cog menu to switch between the automatic captions and our tidied-up version.

You can download your subtitle files from YouTube in the YouTube Studio Video Manager: open the video, go to the "Subtitles" section, hover over the subtitles you want to download and use the vertical dots menu ():

The 'Subtitles' section is accessed from a menu to the left of the video page; the menus with the download links are to the right.

Zoom can create caption files for cloud recordings. The process is slow (days rather than minutes), and accuracy is variable but the generated file is in a good format and is relatively easy to work with. There's guidance on their help pages:

There are other free subtitling tools online (usual caveats about free online tools notwithstanding), or you could even play the sound through your microphone and into a Google Doc to use the transcription service in Google Docs. It's an inelegant method but it just about works.

If you've got a transcript you can then make your own subtitles file. There's a load of different file formats but they're often pretty easy to write if you know what you're doing. They're all basically text files and tend to follow a similar sort of format.

Read more about subtitle formats...


If you've got a video stored in Google Drive, it's very easy to add a subtitle file to it. You can even upload a transcript (as a text file) and let it auto-caption. You can then download the resulting subtitle file for use elsewhere.

If you're using VLC Media Player, it can display captions it finds in the same file location with the same filename (save for the file extension).

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