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Digital Accessibility

Multimedia documents


Perception of the audiovisual

Multimedia documents are a set of simultaneous images, sounds and texts, linked together through transitions. Because of its composition, it is very difficult to design a video or audio accessible to all people. The lack of the ability to see or listen makes it difficult. However, universal design does not exclude adaptation, and as we will see in this section we have tools to ensure a high degree of accessibility for multimedia documents.

Simplifying thinking that a blind person only listens to the sound and that a deaf person can only see, is not taking into account aspects that go beyond audio or video.

We could list the perception difficulties encountered by people who are deaf or hard of hearing:

  • Receive any sound
  • Hearing of loud noises
  • Listen to the speech.

And the perception difficulties that blind or visually impaired people encounter:

  • Perceive any image.
  • Visual detail tasks.
  • Visual tasks as a whole.

Knowing the difficulties of perception, what do people with sensory disabilities lose from the multimedia elements?

  • Of people:
    • Words.
    • Non-verbal communication.
    • Postures
    • Gestures
    • Movements
    • Intonation.
    • Physical.
  • Of the scenarios:
    • Space.
    • Architecture.
    • Furniture.
    • Color.
    • Illumination.
    • Music.
    • Sounds
    • Voice-over

Emotions, sensations and in general what transmit all these elements is information that is lost and that goes beyond vision or hearing.



Communication support service that displays on the screen, through text and charts, oral discourses, suprasegmental information and sound effects that occur in any audiovisual work. We can distinguish different types of subtitles depending on who is addressed or at the time it is made public.

Subtitles for the deaf

Usually, intralinguistic subtitles for people with hearing disabilities. These subtitles are not what are usually included in movies. They are subtitles that pay special attention to the information that is transmitted with the tone of speech or music. As we can see in the following image, in the subheadings they were included in brackets, before the phrase, the word jokes to indicate the tone of voice used.

In addition, colors are often used to distinguish the main characters of a video, because the person who speaks does not always appear on the screen, avoiding confusion.

Subtitulos para sordos

Subtitles for listeners

Usually, interlinguistic subtitles for films in original version. They are the transcription from speech to text without any extra information. These subtitles are found on any DVD purchased.

Subtitulos para oyentes

Subtitles in deferred

They are made and reproduced at a time different from the time when the audiovisual content was created.

Subtitulos en diferido

Live subtitles

The transcription of audio to text is done at the moment when the event is taking place. Stereotypy in events is a clear example of this type of subtitles.

Subtitulos en directo

Subtitling software:
Of subtitled:
  • AEGISub 
  • Subtitle Workshop 
  • MAGpie 
  • Hi – Caption Studio 

Video editing:

  • Adobe Premiere 
  • Final Cut Pro 
  • Avid 


With these applications we can perform

  • Subtitle management: 
    • Add, edit and delete the texts and relate them to their timestamps.

    • Some programs have advanced features for the reorganization of subtitles, intelligent cutting of the same, etc.

  • Video and audio management:
    • Testing live, locating the subtitles in more specific instants, more edition, etc.. 

  • Time management :
    • They provide functions to delimit the beginning and end of the subtitles. 

  • Style management
    • Colors, size, etc.


Audio description

It is a communication support service. They are a set of techniques and applied skills, in order to compensate for the lack of capture of the visual part contained in any type of message. It provides adequate sound information that translates or explains it, so that the possible visually impaired receiver perceives this message in the most similar way to how a person sees it and as a harmonious whole.

Here are the steps of an audio description:

  • Preparation of the script of the audio description
  • Audio-introduction
  • Description of the actors, the action and the scenarios.
  • Locution
  • Use of language
  • Density of the audio description, avoiding as high as possible.

Sign language

There is a tendency to think that sign languages are similar to the languages of the country in which they are found, but this is not the case. They are totally different languages and each one has its own rules.

Our multimedia documents should be signed, as far as possible. And if it is not possible, at least create summaries with the most important information in this system.


Practical examples

Let's see several examples to illustrate everything learned during this chapter:

Hearing impairment:

The next video is a scene from the movie American Beauty. In it, information is transmitted through irony. By not indicating it in the subtitles, a deaf person may not understand what happens in that scene.

Visual disability:

The next video is a scene from the movie Psycho. In it no voice is heard, only sounds of what happens. A person with visual problems will not be able to understand it.

In these cases, we must provide clear sound elements, to indicate what is happening. For example, put a tragic music in a battle when the protagonists lose or epic when they are victorious.



Finally, in the following video we can see the contrast between videos without adapting and videos designed for everyone.

The video is a succession of fragments of several films: The Last Samurai, a Blue Planet documentary and cartoons for children. Each fragment appears first without adaptation followed by the same fragment designed for everyone.


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