UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 January 2009

OzeWAI 2009

The opportunity to escape the depths of a cold January in the UK to give the opening talk at the OzeWAI 2009 conference was too good to miss. So last week’s trip to La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia provided me with the opportunity to go into the mountains for a barbecue, go to the beach, take a ride along the Great Ocean Road, see the koalas and kangaroos and try the local Cooper’s IPA (which needs to be rolled before drinking, I discovered).

From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability (1.0)

But I had to earn my supper (the goat at the barbie)  and so as well as giving the presentation on  “From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability (1.0)” I took part actively in the conferences discussions (and drinking). I have also made the slides available on Slideshare (which is embedded below).

The talk seemed to go down well – and I was particularly pleased that when I sat down after my talk and refreshed the Twitterfon application on my iPod Touch it provided me with instant feedback on the talk from two of the participants at the conference.  RuthEllison told me that she “@briankelly enjoyed your presentation this morning about a holistic approach to accessibility #ozewai” and scenariogirl also showed some Australian warmth: “@briankelly Fantastic talk this morning, I will come up and say hi at lunch ;)“.

The talk was an update on recent papers and presentations and contains much of the material I used in a talk on “Holistic Approaches To Web Accessibility” which I blogged about recently. I therefore won’t expand on the ideas and approaches which I explained in my talk. Rather I want to discuss the accessibility of the talk itself.

Accessibility of Talks at Conferences

As I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, the slides are made available under a Creative Commons licence.  In addition, as I’ve also been doing for some time the slides are available on Slideshare. These approaches provide a number of benefits:

Creative Commons Licence:

  • The content can be reused by others by minimising legal barriers to their reuse.
  • The content can be preserved by others by minimising legal barriers to their preservation.
  • The content can be integrated with other content (e.g. ‘mashed up’)  by minimising legal barriers to their preservation.

Use of Slideshare:

  • The content can be reused by others by using a service which allows the content to be embedded in third party services.
  • The content can be commented on and annotated.
  • The content can be tagged to facilitate discovery.

Over the past few months I have also been making use of a Flip video camera to record the talks I give at conferences.  A video of the talk is now available on Blip.TV and embedded below. The video can also be accessed from the UKOLN Web site, which also provides links to a variety of resources associated with the talk, including the PowerPoint slide, a HTML version of the slides, the AVI master of the video and links related to the presentation.

Discussion

But what benefits can the provision of videos of such talks provide? Using Web 2.0 video sharing services such as Blip.TV (or Google Video, Vimeo, etc.) can clearly provide similar benefits to those provided by Slideshare – and sharing a talk is often even more beneficial than simply sharing slides, I would argue. And if I reflect on the underlying purposes behind my talk I think I would suggest:

  • To describe an approach (to Web accessibility) which I think addresses some of the limitations in current approaches.
  • To seek to gain feedback on the ideas.
  • To encourage others to make use of this approach.

The video helps with all of these purposes: the video can help to provide a better understanding than would be provided by simply viewing the slides. And despite the hard work which has gone into the various peer-reviewed papers which underpins the presentation, I’d be the first to admit that papers written for scholarly publications aren’t necessarily easy to understand.

And Web 2.0 video sharing services can also facilitate feedback and reuse of the content.  So if anyone would like to embed the video in their own Web resources (to share with others; to comment on; to critique; etc.) then I would encourage this.

But, and there is a but, is the video itself accessible? In the final panel session at OzeWAI 2009 I argued that the OzeWAI 2010 conference should be an’ amplified conference’,  with the talks being recorded and made freely available for use (and reuse) by others. And in response to a question as to whether it would be affordable to provide captioning for such videos, I argued that this may not also be needed.  In UK legislation, for example, we are required to take reasonable measures to ensure that people with disabilities aren’t differentiated against unfairly.  I feel that providing slides, audio and videos at conferences can now be done reasonably easily, but captioning is an expensive process. And providing a variety of alternatives (slides, videos, links to papers, links to resources) can enrich the impact of and access to the underling ideas  of talks given at conferences, including access for people with a range of disabilities.

Lisa Herod (scenariogirl) summarised the discussions on the Twitter back-channel thus:

Is it better to have some content or no content at all if some content == partial accessibility? Discuss. #ozewai09

What’s your view?  Should I remove the embedded Slideshare and Blip.TV resources from this post as they don’t conform with accessibility guidelines? Or should my organisation request that I remove them as they could be liable?

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17 Responses to “From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability”

  1. rashmi said

    Brian,

    Interesting points.

    One thought – SlideShare shows the entire text of the presentation page (look on lower part of page) which is great from an accessibility perspective. Granted there is a lot more to be done, but it does make that text accessible which was not before.

    You could start pasting that entire text into your post (or where else you post your presentations). That would help the aecessibility usecase.

    Rashmi

  2. Hi Rasmi – Thanks for your comment. As you’ll see from my post on Slideshare – It’s Working For Me. And as you’ll see from the comments on this post many people have an interest in the accessibility of Slideshare – for example, can it be used easily without a mouse?

    I think many people in the educational sector would be pleased to hear answers to such questions and also to hear about further developments to enhance the accessibility of the Slideshare service. So as you work for Slideshare if would be great if you could you could let us know of any planned developments.

  3. Billy said

    It’s much easier to discuss these issues with practical examples like you’ve given here.

    Providing video is great, but I find it really frustrating that many cutting edge conferences and digital content providers have jumped straight past providing audio as mp3s to providing video only. I rarely (pretty much never) have the opportunity or patience to sit and watch a video of a talk online. I do however regularly listen to talks and lectures on my mp3 player while walking, etc. An mp3 file is much more useful to me.

    Accessibility-wise, your question at the end is good, you shouldn’t be removing strong content because it doesn’t meet standards. But I think that a full written transcript wouldn’t be too much hard work.

  4. Sparty said

    I think we need to look at different categories of content – being at a presentation live is better than watching it on video (usually), watching video is better than just the slides etc – quality of experience can never be exactly the same, once some of the senses are removed. I would expect a Hollywood movie to have perfect captioning upon DVD release, where as I’ll accept lots of dodgy “live” translation on captioned news etc. Same applies to education on the web- a briefing animation needs captioning to reflect the effort in creating it etc- as Billy says “a full written transcript wouldn’t be too much hard work” compared to the overall effort. But for a user made video of a presentation – making available in text form, perhaps just the gist of the content, might be a sufficient?

  5. Hi Billy – You say that you “think that a full written transcript wouldn’t be too much hard work“. Would you like to try it and report on the time it takes.

  6. Hi Brian,
    I did enjoy your presentation, live and in the flesh.
    To support Billy, though, I’ll add that in preparing my presentation, I decided not to break down my speech into key points. While not a visually dynamic presentation, because I kept referring to what I had written, I was able to make my presentation available as a script.
    The preparation of a script is what should be employed in an education setting. Even if it is the highlights or terms of reference for the lecture. Yes it does take time, but how much more time will it take as part of normal preparation for a lecture?
    That, though, is a double-edged question, because, as I discussed, preparation time is nearly negligible at some universities.

    Anthony.

  7. Hi Anthony – thanks for your reply. I enjoyed your proesentation too – although I had to look at the link you provided to remind we what you spoke about (blame the jet lag!) However thuis illustrates my point that the availability of a resource can help accessibility (e.g. short term memory loss).

    Your point that a script for a presentation can provide an equivalent experience is a good one. This can be particularly useful for audio presentations, podcasts, etc. And if a script is produced, I would agree that making it publically available can be beneficial. And this uis an approach I had used myself which I published a number of video blogs.

    However scripts aren’t always produced. And when they are produced they aren’t always followed. For example, I tend to deviate from a prepared set of notes when I give talks by pulling in references to previous talks or the local environment (kangeroos, when down under). Sometimes the deviations are trivial, but on other occassions there may be more significant deviations.

    I’d agree with your broad point that there may be creative weays in providing accessible alternatives to presentations which are recorded (as I said in my post I try to link to papers which are available in accessible formats). But you are quite finght to conclude that “preparation time is nearly negligible at some universities“. And I would add that time for post-processing can be even more difficult to find – I have a backlog of work to catch up with!

  8. Billy said

    Hi Brian, I guess my comment sounds a bit facetious! I’ve always had the policy of providing full transcripts for audio and video so I’ve got a good idea of the work involved. At NML (I don’t work there anymore) all our podcasts had (and still have by the looks of it) full transcripts, whether for a 20 minute gallery talk or a two day conference.

    Depending on the speed of the speaker and the clarity of their voice, I found that transcribing them (using the excellent free tool Express Scribe) took between 2.5 and 3.5 times the length of the audio file. So a talk such as this one here would take around 2.5 hours to transcribe.

    I think it’s well worth it considering you’re making your content much more accessible and searchable by providing it in plain text (since leaving NML I’ve browsed the transcripts of their talks much more often than listened to the mp3s – thanks to the internet partly we’ve all got highly developed text browsing skills but it’s not so easy to find the relevant bit of a video/audio file).

    I still think your point is crucial though. In a straight choice between having the video online without the transcription and having nothing online I think you should keep the video online. It’s a shame that the perceived difficulty of providing accessible alternatives is preventing a lot of great content such as this from being made available online.

  9. Hi Billy – Thanks for the response. I think we’re in agreement – if you can provide textual transcripts, that’s great. However there will be many occasions when you can’t. I’m aware, for example, of experimenets in the automatced recordings of lectures (e.g. see the iLecture tool). The feedback I heard about this was that students found it useful e.g. for revision purposes or if they couldn’t attenmd the tlecturers (e.g. they were ill; transport problems; etc.) However in such cases (the many standard undergraduate lectures which are delivered) it’s not econimicallyt viable to produce transcripts (and automated audio to text tools don’t deliver satistactory solutions yet).

    I very much agree with your final paragraph:

    In a straight choice between having the video online without the transcription and having nothing online I think you should keep the video online. It’s a shame that the perceived difficulty of providing accessible alternatives is preventing a lot of great content such as this from being made available online.

  10. Accessibility, like metadata, is cheapest at the moment of creation. So, for me, it comes down to workflow. Like Anthony, I write all of my talks out as full text before I reduce them to talking points. So any video or audio recording has a text alternative before I start. I don’t need to transcribe afterwards, because I never will.

    Yes, I deviate. Yes, I do things with my hands that wouldn’t come out on video. I’m not as good as Anthony at describing what is on the screen, so the audio would lack something. But each version would provide functional equivalence of the other, which is a key idea in accessibility. And the text would be there at the base, searchable, printable, readable.

    I don’t do it to be accessible. I do it because I need to get my ideas straight. It just happens that my workflow would support accessibility, if I was videoing myself.

    Brian, I suspect that you are probably doing roughly the same thing with your blog posts, slideshare and video (although I don’t know how accessible wordpress is). You are talking about these concepts all the time, and providing functional equivalence in different formats. They are loosely coupled by search engines (which is a pain for anyone, not just a person with disabilities), rather than being explicitely linked to one another.

    Here is another way to look at it. If you are putting the time into crafting a particular concept (like Web Adaptability 1.0, which I think is important, for all my carping), wouldn’t you prefer to put the time into one perfect pixel, rather than a million scattered shards?

    Personally, I want both. I want to be carried along by the blog posts and the tweets as you develop the idea, and then I want to read the perfected pixel when the idea is fully formed and functional.

    We spend too much time talking about the accessibility of documents. I want accessible concepts. And I think that they are worth spending the time to get right.

  11. Hi Jonathon – Many thanks for your comment. You’ve raised several interesting points.

    You’ve reminded me how accessible Anthony’s talk was when he described in words the various images in his talk. I tried to do likewise: e.g. my slide on the relationships between usability and accessibility in which I gave a verbal description of the venn diagrams. It has only just occurred to me that this verbal description also works for sighted people who are viewing the video of the talk, as you can’t see much detail of the slides on the video.

    But although you’ve helped me gain a better insight into the accessibility approaches when giving prepared presentations, such approaches do not apply for the unscripted parts of conferences. And for me the best part of OzeWAI 2009 was the final panel session, which provided an opportunity for the speakers to reflect on the conference and respond to questions. And as a number of people had to leave the conference early (it was the bank holiday weekend, after all) they have no way of accessing these discussions. They should have been recorded, IMHO.

    And this, for me, is the real challenge I’m trying to address. As well as exploring new ways of enhancing accessibility I’m particularly interested in how we should respond to the real world challenges in the more difficult areas. Perhaps this is we’re in agreement with your comment that “We spend too much time talking about the accessibility of documents“. I too want accessible concepts – and I also want achievable accessible concepts.

    It strikes me that we are revisiting the Cato versus Cicero debate. I wrote about this some time ago. This historical reflection (which Martin Weller, a professor at the Open University introduced me to) provides an insight into this discussion:

    Cato and Cicero both believed passionately in the same higher level goal, ie the establishment of the Roman Republic. Yet they frequently clashed about what was the best way to achieve it.

    I think that everyone who has commented on this thread has similar passions about accessibility. And we’ll need to continue the discussions on the best ways of achieving this.

  12. [...] vision of making every digital resource universally accessible to all was flawed (but unfortunately her talk was not recorded, so you’ll have to take my word for that :-) [...]

  13. [...] From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability « UK Web Focus [...]

  14. [...] I have described previously, immediately following the talk I received tweets from two participants at the conference saying [...]

  15. [...] succinctly summarised my talk in three words “Accessibility isn’t binary”. As I described in a blog post that encounter led to @scenariogirl (Lisa Herrod) contributing to my most recent accessibility [...]

  16. [...] to my accessibility methodology i.e. Accessibility isn’t binary.” Later that month, a talk is born: From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability”. Finally, six months later, a paper is [...]

  17. […] I’ve not yet met Sarah face-to-face but I did meet two co-authors of a paper on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” following tweets I received after giving a talk at the OzeiWAI 2009 conference. As I have described previously: […]

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