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Adapting Video for VI Learners

Making best use of unmodified materials

Managing group work

Handling group work involving video needs extra care when some students are visually impaired. Positioning, pace, and accessibility of the video support material itself all need attention.

Equipment positioning becomes more complex because the teacher and student have to find a compromise between three factors: visibility of the monitor or screen, the ability to find and see other students and the teacher during discussions, and the need to avoid glare or dark spots. Finding this compromise is especially difficult for people who need to cut down on search time and effort, and for whom a restricted visual search angle would help (eg, students using LVA, or those who have visual field defect problems).

If the group work is centred around video, then often teachers aim to seat their students around a rectangular table (for best peer to peer eye contact) with the screen at one of the narrow ends. Your first thought might be to position the VI student near the screen. However, since they would be at one end of one of the long sides this could mean a wide angle of view if they are to see both screen and fellow students. Although it sound a little paradoxical, if the person is using an LVA then they may need to be at the opposite end of the table to the monitor.

Seminar room plan(D)

If student needs to be close to the screen, then this argues for a (small) personal monitor, still at one of the narrow ends of the table.

Since these kinds of sessions are usually a bit ad-hoc, lighting and glare are likely to be less well set up than in a dedicated lecture theatre. It is always worth while checking the conditions. The fastest way is by asking the student, so they need to arrive a moment or so before the main group.

If, on the other hand, we are discussing multimedia group work (or simulations, or Web access) then the chances are that the group will be in a computer lab, with fixed kit around the walls or set out in rows. Organisationally, the teacher should earmark for the VI student that workstation which offers the best positioning and lighting compromise, and ensure that any filters or screen hoods are in place. There is little that can be done to reduce search angle, and other monitors usually result in a lot of visual clutter as well, all of which will hinder interaction. During the session when peer to peer discussions are taking place the teacher can most help by allowing lots of time for students to adapt to new visual targets.

However well set up the environment, and however careful the teacher is to pace discussions properly, multimedia and video sessions can be rendered useless for VI students if the material itself is inaccessible. Teachers should review the material in the light of students' needs, and offer training on metaskills - how to get the best out of the package. We have a checklist in our section on managing multimedia