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Adapting Video for VI Learners

Making best use of unmodified materials

Managing multimedia

Multimedia packages are becoming increasingly popular, particularly for self-study within a course. Effective use implies the student learning new skills, and teachers checking package suitability against special criteria.

New skills

Teachers also shouldn't assume that students know how to use new media. Some training may be needed, particularly so that students

  • have a clear idea of the metaphor in use
  • know how to navigate around the material and search it (if free movement is allowed)
  • can use in-built tools like bookmarks
  • can control video clips, enlarge images, adjust text, and print

Packages can be built to be very accessible to VI students (and we describe how in our sections on new designs). However, off-the-shelf materials are often not tailored in these ways, so that before such software can be used, teachers need to review how usable it will be by their VI student.

Checking for accessibility

Such a 'usability audit' has to be broader than a review of the package itself. For one thing, and as always, individual needs mean that software should be assessed in the context of the particular student's visual impairments. Then again, the college will typically have settled on one standard computer operating system: this platform will offer its own built in access aids, and teachers should consider their usefulness for the multimedia materials and the students needs. There is also the issue of format and control variety. As the name implies, multimedia materials present a wealth of information types:

  • video
  • text
  • speech
  • sound and music
  • pictures
  • formulae
  • graphs
  • numerical data
  • animations
  • 3-D explorations, and
  • simulations.

Moreover, navigation through a typical multimedia package and interaction with its dynamic content implies use of one or more of the following display and control systems:

  • Pointing device (mouse, trackball, graphics pad, touch-screen) and on-screen cursor
  • Menus
  • Windows and dialogues
  • Keyboard

So unlike the review of a video, say, analysing multimedia for personal access problems means considering each of these elements separately. A good starting point is an assessment from the student about any problems they already have with each of these, outside the context of multimedia.

Review questions

Here are some issues for your review:

  • Text sizes may not be optimal. Are text font, size, and colours manipulable within the package? If not, can you set up preferences within the multimedia player or browser? Can you make use of special access facilities provided through the operating system?
  • What happens to formatting and layout when these adjustments to text are made?
  • Are video and graphics sizes adjustable? again, at what level, and with what effect on spatial relationships with other elements?
  • Are alternate formats available (for instance, text descriptions for graphics and video, or speech alternatives for text content)? How are they accessed?
  • Can video clips easily be paused and replayed?
  • Is the navigation, search and control metaphor appropriate for the student's visual abilities? For instance, does it rely on on-screen buttons? Are they consistent? Easily visible? Are the controls offered appropriate? Do they have alternate forms which could be accessed without Windows, Icons, Mouse and Pulldown menu skills?
  • If the teacher needs to provide supplementary material, can this be done easily?
    • - can new material be integrated into the package (as links to text files for instance)
    • - can teachers download content for students to use in printed or brailled notes, or as files for use in external text-to-speech systems?
  • If the multimedia is web-based (accessed through a browser), are the contents well layered, so that supplementary material shows up automatically if the student chooses to use a text browser?