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Adapting Video for VI Learners

Making best use of unmodified materials

Selecting and checking video materials

This section is aimed mainly at teachers who use or aim to use video in courses for VI students. You need to specify

Why are you using video?

Courses evolve over time: content is incorporated which 'works', but the reasoning behind its inclusion is sometimes not made explicit. The arrival of a VI student is a good time to look over your rationale for including video at all.

Good teachers keep the interests of their students by introducing variety into the learning environment, and one way of doing so is through video materials. Sometimes, these carry information which is vital to the course - information which is impoverished if presented any other way. Other videos are there to provide an alternative perspective, and are used as in-session consolidation. Some are used not because their content is uniquely presented or provides a vital review, but to increase variety during teaching, to avoid boring presentational uniformity.

It is worth being clear to both yourself and your student which of these three is the case. A VI student will need supplementary help with unique material, but will certainly want to decide for themselves if either of the other two is worth investing time in: time which could be better spent in dealing with some of their other learning tasks. Make this analysis explicit, and make it in advance as part of the course organisation pack, so that you and your students can plan to make best use of your time.

Choosing materials

As we write, it is very unusual to find video materials which are specifically written for VI pupils or students, and uncommon to come across enhanced versions of mainstream works. However, this is changing: more specialised or tailored materials will become available as the legislative climate in Europe follows the US ADA lead and begins to exert pressures on producers. So when making your choices, check to see if versions are available with audio subtitling - bearing in mind that even if the publishers don't offer those enhancements now, the cumulative effects of requests will force the market. RNIB,the UK Open University and the BBC Education Unit are good starting points.

Look for videos carrying open or closed subtitling. Although these may have been made with a deaf audience in mind, they can sometimes help VI students in orientation and synopsis - especially if LVA's make it difficult to see the whole action at once. Take care though. Because subtitling in these circumstances assumes that the reader can see the action the text is often not a satisfactory alternative to viewing what is happening. This can also be problematic if you use foreign language videos with subtitles. Where in normal circumstances there are three streams of information available to a language student (video, spoken language, and an abridged text translation), only two may be accessible to a VI student, and just one to a blind student.

Finally, if video examples are going to be essential to the course, and many VI students may need it in the future, then you have an economic case for re-working or supplementing your chosen video. If you have the luxury of alternatives, then bear in mind that some will rework more easily than others. Look for gaps in the audio for added voice annotation, and natural breaks where you or your student could pause for classroom review, re-running, paused analysis, reading of scripts, or looking at supplementary pictures (and where you could possibly insert extra footage). Avoid fast-paced, busy, relentless material with complicated dynamic text effects and multiple screen - in - screen shots.

Assessing chosen materials

When you have chosen a video or video-rich multimedia package, you should review it as best you can with your student's needs in mind. Use the TV, monitor, or AV controls to approximate the difficulty. If colour is a problem, view the video in monochrome - well produced material will still be accessible, but some producers are quietly forgetting those with black and white TVs and monitors, and rely on colour cues alone. Reduce the contrast and check that the important moments are not compromised.

Take a careful look at the rate of action for critical scenes (especially if an LVA is used). Put yourself in the students shoes: restrict your view of these scenes (say, through a pinhole in a sheet of paper so that you can only see a portion of the screen without moving the sheet). Can you still make sense of what is going on?

As you find each problem area, make a note of (a) where it is (in the narrative flow, and on the tape counter or timer), and (b) what is being shown. You can then provide these notes to your student, or add non-video pictures and diagrams, or use the cue sheet to slow the teaching pace during your delivery, or all three.