Accessible Live Streaming Content Creators Guide
Over the past few years, live streaming has boomed in popularity. It’s a form of digital content in which media is filmed and broadcast simultaneously in real time. From news events to solo bedroom streams, the uses of live streams are endless.
The unedited and largely informal nature of live streams can make them seem like a more authentic form of social media. According to a study, 82% of audiences prefer live videos over social media posts. Due to their increasing popularity, breaking into the live-streaming market has become an extremely desirable prospect. By 2027, the live-streaming industry is predicted to be valued at $184.3 billion.
One of the key reasons that live streams are favored is because they focus on audience interaction. During streams, most streamers will heavily engage with their audience through features like chat boxes. Since viewer interaction is vital, it’s important that all viewers have the same opportunity to contribute to this. Regardless of abilities or disabilities, everyone should be able to both access and interact with live streams. Sadly, this is not always the case. Live streams can quickly become inaccessible due to their impromptu nature. However, if done correctly, they can be enjoyed by everyone.
The UN states that digital accessibility is a human right. Not only is it morally wrong to make inaccessible digital content, but it also means you’re missing out on a massive potential viewership and profit. Worldwide, there are over one billion people with disabilities. That’s 15% of the global population – and 15% of your potential audience.
Making an accessible live stream can seem overwhelming at first. Especially, if you have no prior experience. That’s why we’ve made this guide to assist you along the way. If you follow these steps, you’re right on the way to making great, inclusive content.
Get to Know Your Platform
The first step to making your stream accessible is making sure your hosting platform is accessible. Familiarize yourself with it and its accessibility features. Look out for things like captioning features and a description box that allows you to summarize what your stream is about prior to people joining. It’s also important that you host on a platform that can complete all major commands solely through keyboard use.
Set It Up
Set up matters. When trying to make your stream more accessible, having a good set up is a solid place to start.
Make sure that your camera is set up correctly. It should provide a good, clear view of everything that’s happening and remain stable throughout the entirety of the stream. To guarantee this, place your camera in a spot with good lighting that’s not likely to change. Investing in a ring or box light will ensure that your lighting remains bright and consistent. In order to keep your camera stable, consider using a tripod or a webcam that clips to the top of your screen.
When setting up, we also need to put the camera in a spot where the streamer is the clear focal point. Generally, positioning the streamer in the middle of the camera against a simple background is the best way to do this. To make sure the speaker is as visible as possible, use a background that is contrasting or darker in color.
A good quality microphone is another essential factor for creating an accessible stream. You want a microphone that picks up everything you’re saying, delivering clear audio that’s loud enough. To avoid picking up background noise, consider positioning the microphone closer to your mouth and using a pop filter. Our aim is clarity. This can also be done by eliminating distractions. If there are multiple people on the stream, speak one at a time. Background music can make it difficult to hear the speaker, so it’s best to keep unnecessary audio off the stream.
After starting your stream, check in with your audience. Ask if your microphone has any feedback or delay. This prevents ongoing audio issues and will allow you to resolve any issues ASAP.
Better Connection, Better Content
Hosting any live video requires a fast internet connection. The best way to do this is via a high-bandwidth connection direct to your camera. Investing in your internet connection is by far the most crucial step you can take for creating a successful stream.
When the connection is bad, big chunks of your audio or visuals can buffer or be cut out altogether. A slow picture that fails to sync up with the audio will only create confusion. Particularly, for people that rely on lip reading. A fast connection increases the chances of your stream running smoothly, preventing unnecessary difficulty for your entire audience.
If you’re unsure about the stability of your connection, put it through an internet speed test. They’re free, simple to use, and easy to find online.
Follow the Script
Before starting your stream, consider what you’re going to say. Make a script for it and stick to it. The spontaneity of streams often makes them inaccessible to individuals with disabilities and impairments. Especially, for people with hearing impairment as a lack of planning can mean a lack of captions.
Writing a script beforehand can be beneficial for multiple reasons. Firstly, it makes your stream feel more cohesive. Additionally, it guarantees that you cover everything you want to. A good script should also make your stream easier to follow. Most importantly, it allows you to pre-caption and transcribe your stream – an accessibility must.
As a last resort, you can use auto-captions. However, you should only use these if there’s absolutely no way for you to pre-caption or create a transcription beforehand. Auto-captions are rarely useful. They’re often inaccurate and, in some cases, worse than no captions at all. This is because most AI cannot recognize slang or regional accents. For streams, this is a major problem as the relaxed nature of them tends to mean that at least one of these things is present. In these cases, auto-captions are nothing but a headache.
Take Things 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 from topic to topic too quickly. It can make your stream confusing and hard to follow. Between each topic and sentence, take a moment to pause. This gives people time to process what you’ve said, which can be a vital addition for people who have hearing impairment or audio-processing problems.
Talking at a slightly reduced pace will make your stream easier to digest. Often, we speak very quickly in daily life. As live streaming is usually conversational, it’s tempting to speak far quicker than you would on a pre-filmed video. Likely, this results in poor enunciation which can cause problems for people that rely on lip reading, amongst others.
Clear speech is not just about accessibility, it’s about inclusivity as well. If you talk in a way that’s easy to understand, then you’re more likely to attract an international audience. This is a massive potential audience that should not be ignored.
Clear speech is also just practical. It gives your internet time to process everything so that nothing gets skipped over.
Set the Scene
Many streamers choose to play video games or use other visuals whilst live streaming. Most of the time, the streamer will just go on the assumption that everyone can see these visuals and understand what they mean.
Many of these video games are dark or have fast-moving visuals which can be confusing and jarring to look at. When using visual aids such as games, you should always bear in mind that these are not accessible to everyone. Describe what you’re doing, the setting you’re doing it in, and the intention of your actions. This gives context to viewers who are unable to see the screen or might have difficulties following along. Similarly, this should be applied to any text shown on the screen.
When describing, make sure to use clear and concise language. We want to make the image as simple to visualize as possible.
Bigger Budget, Better Accessibility
Many companies use live streaming to host big events or conferences. If you’re a company content creator or you have the budget to do so, consider hiring a sign language interpreter. During streamed concerts, the camera tends to capture the event from a variety of different angles. This can be particularly annoying for individuals with hearing impairment that use lip reading. With the assistance of a sign language interpreter, these individuals can enjoy the concert more without the stress of trying to keep up with the camera.
If you’re live streaming a concert or conference, release the set list or order of business before the event. This gives people a better context of what’s occurring and when.