Act on the Provision of Digital Services promotes the accessibility of videos and audio files
The Act on the Provision of Digital Services (306/2019) entered into force on 1st April 2019. In Finland, the Act implements the EU’s Accessibility Directive, which obliges the public sector to implement its website and mobile application by the criterion of the so-called accessibility standard, i.e. international WCAG guidelines. Following the WGAC guidelines, all non-textual content must also be provided with text equivalents. In Finland, compliance with the Accessibility Directive is supervised by southern Finland’s Regional State Administrative Agency. In this article, the law’s guidance is interpreted from the perspective of higher education.
The enactment of the law was staggered
- Videos and audio broadcasts published on the website must comply with accessibility requirements as of September 23, 2020 or no later than 14 days after they have been published.
- Videos and audio broadcasts posted in mobile apps must comply with the requirements on June 23, 2021. The guidelines for media content published in mobile applications will be specified in the spring 2021.
- Hamk’s guidelines take into account not only The Act on the Provision of Digital Services but also the recommendations contained in the article Digipalvelulain soveltamisesta yliopistoissa (only in Finnish) .
The law obliges you to make an alternative
As a rule, all videos that contain both audio and image must be given a text alternative. Videos are categorized according to whether they contain both audio and image or just one or the other. WCAG guidelines refer to materials like that as synchronized media.
The text alternative shall be drawn up for, inter alia:
- For recordings published on the University’s website.
- For videos posted on social media channel.
- For videos published in the organization’s systems, as storing them in an intra or online learning environment does not remove the obligation.
- Also for videos that don’t have audio.
- For audio broadcasts, e.g. podcasts.
Take a look at the HAMK examples of subtitle cases and article How to order subtitles for video.
The alternative must show the central contents of the video or audio recording. The text alternative must be found in the immediate connection of the video or audio recording. The text alternative is given in the language used in the media.
The alternative means:
- Subtitles in a video that includes both image and audio (a prerequisite for the law).
- A text alternative for the audio-only or video-only, indicating the essential content.
- A video that contains only images can be e.g. a video that contains a demonstration in which the matter is presented without speech. In this case, the text alternative must tell the same things as what is shown in the video.
- Text included in the website, which tell what was shown in the video.
Videos that are not required to be subtitled
There are some materials which are excluded from the legal requirements and for which subtitles are not mandatory. Of course, improving materials accessibility promotes equality between all students.
Subtitles shall not be required in the case of:
- live broadcast. N.B. any recordings that may be shared later shall be subtitled.
- a video for educational purpose that can be viewed by students in a closed learning environment (requires login) on fixed-term.
- Fixed-term use means less than one year.
- The number of students doesn’t matter.
- Pay attention for students’ data protection both when planning teaching and if sharing the recording
- if the primary learning material is text and the video has the same content (media alternative), then you do not need to subtitle the video. The video must not contain more information than is in the text.
- a video made by the students themselves, which will not be used in the future, e.g. as teaching material
- a test/task measuring the understanding and visual skills of the hearing, utilizing the video material
- video released before 23 September 2020.