Making Accessible Live Streams Content Creators Guide
Live streaming allows you to film and broadcast videos at the same time. The lack of editing gives it an authentic edge, which has made it boom in popularity. Studies show that 82% of audiences prefer live videos to social media posts.
This sudden surge has made streaming a desirable market to break into. In 2022, the global video streaming market was valued at 89 billion. Despite more people consuming and creating them than ever, many live streams still exclude people with disabilities. Poor accessibility is both morally wrong and highly unprofitable. People with disabilities make up 15% of the global population. This is a huge potential audience that should not be ignored.
Making an accessible live stream can seem overwhelming at first. More so if you have no prior experience. That’s why we’ve made this guide to assist you along the way. Following these steps will mean you’re right on track to making great, inclusive live streams.
Know Your Platform
Having an accessible stream starts with hosting on an accessible platform. Get to know your hosting platform. Familiarize yourself with its accessibility features.
You should be looking out for things like:
- a description box that lets you summarize each stream;
- the ability to access all major commands from a keyboard alone;
- high contrast mode;
- closed captions.
Set It Up
Setup matters. It’s a simple place to start, but it can make a massive difference.
First, place your camera well. It should give users a clear and stable view of everything happening. Keep your camera balanced using a tripod or webcam that clips to the top of your screen. This is all pointless if you don’t pay attention to the lighting. Invest in a ring or box light to keep lighting bright and consistent for the whole stream. Bad lighting causes issues for people with vision impairment and makes the entire stream look shoddy.
Make the streamer the main focal point. Putting yourself in the center of a simple background is generally a good way to do this. Use a background that is a darker or contrasting color to boost visibility.
Using a good quality microphone is essential for any stream. It should pick up all speech and deliver clear audio at an ample volume. We don’t want any crackles or pops. Avoid these by using a pop filter and positioning the microphone closer to your mouth.
Aim for complete clarity. Eliminate distractions like music and background noise. If your stream has multiple people on it, speak one at a time. Your audio should be obvious. This means users know exactly what’s being said and who’s saying it.
Check-in with your audience after starting your stream. Ask if your microphone has any feedback or delay issues. This catches problems quickly and prevents them from becoming an ongoing accessibility issue.
Any steps you take to improve your stream are useless without a solid internet connection. A poor network connection can cause a host of problems that affect accessibility. These include buffering, audio being cut, and disconnecting. All of these make your stream low-quality and difficult to follow. Plus, they pose massive issues for people who rely on lip reading.
Fiber-optic is the best option for live streaming as it provides low latency and good upload speeds. Check the minimum upload speed requirements for your streaming platform. Make sure that your internet is faster than the minimum by 10 or more Mbps.
You can check the stability of your connection through an internet speed test. There are plenty online that are free.
Add Closed Captions
Real-time captions are an essential addition to any stream. On top of improving accessibility, they open your stream to a bigger audience. This includes second-language speakers, users limited by their situation, or people that simply prefer to read.
It’s very simple to enable captions as a Twitch streamer. Just go to your extension manager and add the closed captions extension. Before streaming, you need to activate all extensions on your profile for them to work. Then, follow the instructions on Twitch to configure this extension. Voila, you’re ready to go! This extension requires you to talk a little slower and clearer than normal to caption accurately. Bear this in mind while streaming.
For other platform streamers, WebCaptioner.com is a free captioning website for Google Chrome. This works with OBS Studio which is a popular program used to stream to Twitch, YouTube, etc. Find detailed instructions on how to add captions with this website here.
Adding a closed caption tag to your stream lets users know your stream is captioned. This increases your stream’s visibility to a new audience. Plus, it saves users time in finding a stream that meets their needs.
Take It Slow
It’s good to take things at an easy pace. There’s no need to rush!
Take your time when talking about each topic. Try not to move between points too quickly. This can make your stream confusing and hard to follow. Take a moment to pause between sentences and ideas. Let users process what’s been said. A reduced pace is vital for people who have hearing impairment or audio-processing problems.
Talking at a relaxed pace makes your stream easier to digest. Often, we speak very quickly in daily life. It’s tempting to do this in streams because they seem less formal than pre-recorded videos. However, this just results in poor enunciation. Not only is this problematic for lip-readers, but it also causes issues for any captioning programs you’re using.
Clear speech is about inclusivity as well as accessibility. If you speak in a way that’s easy to understand, then you’re more likely to attract an international audience. This can increase your viewership massively and should not be ignored.
On top of everything, clear speech is practical. It gives your internet time to process everything. This prevents speech from lagging or getting skipped over.
Set the Scene
Many streamers play video games or use other visuals whilst streaming. Usually, the streamer goes on the assumption that everyone can see everything and understand what it means.
Most of these games are dark or have fast-moving visuals. These can be confusing and difficult to look at. When using visual props like games, be mindful that these are not accessible to everyone. Describe what you’re doing. Let people know where you’re doing it and why. This gives essential context to many viewers. You should also do this for any text on the screen.
Use clear and concise language when describing things. The image should be as easy to picture as possible.
Big companies often use live streaming to host events, conferences, and concerts. If you’re organizing an event like this, hire a sign language interpreter.
Many streams capture the event from multiple angles. However, this causes a lot of problems for people that rely on lip reading. Having a sign language interpreter allows people to enjoy the stream without the stress of trying to discern what’s happening.
You should also release any set lists or orders of business before the stream. This increases clarity and makes your stream easier to follow.