Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal Agencies to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology— everything from computers and office equipment to websites. The section titled “video and multimedia products” deals specifically with accessible media services and states:

  • “All training and informational video and multimedia productions which support the agency’s mission, regardless of format, that contain speech or other audio information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be open or closed captioned.”
  • “All training and informational video and multimedia productions that support the agency’s mission, regardless of format, that contain visual information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be audio described.”

The captioning requirement means that simply posting a transcript next to a video is not acceptable. If the video contains speech which must be understood, it must be captioned, with captions appearing in time with the speech.

The audio description requirement is handled differently by different agencies. Many trainers have been taught to describe anything they are presenting, including charts, so that “talking head” videos may be accessible without adding a description track. Agencies which serve the public, including the National Park Service, do include audio description with their videos.