UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Videoing Talks As A Means Of Providing Equivalent Experiences

Posted by Brian Kelly on 8 Oct 2008

As I recently posted, a paper by myself and Liddy Nevile was accepted by the ADDW08 conference. In the paper we argued that the conventional wisdom regarding Web accessibility (just follow the WCAG guidelines and the Web environment will be universally accessible to all) has been shown to be flawed.  We argued that in a world of mass creation of digital objects, the hand-crafted approach which underpins the WCAG model doesn’t scale. We argued the need to embrace a diversity of approaches, including an exploration of the potential for exploiting the links between related resources in order to find equivalent resources.

Our paper is available (in MS Word, PDF and HTML formats) and our slides are also available (in MS PowerPoint and in (dodgy) HTML formats).  But in addition a video of the talk (which I took using a Flip video camera) is available on Google Video (and is embedded below).

And I’ve synched the video with the PowerPoint slides to provide an even richer experience. This is available on Zentation and a screen image is illustrated below.

Now although the HTML version of the paper should comply with WCAG guidelines (although as a peer-reviewed paper the language and writing style may mean that is is not necessarily  understandable by all), the MS Word, PDF, MS PowerPoint, HTML version of the slides and the .AVI video files will not.  Now I could make the resources conform to WCAG guidelines if I removed all but the HTML version of the paper.  But I would argue that this would diminish the impact of and accessibility of the underlying ideas I wish to communicate.  And seeking to make the various versions of the resources conform to the various checklists would be very time-consuming and would not, I would argue, provide an effective return on the tax-payers money.  And such consideration are, I suspect, informing policy decisions related to the provision of institutional repositories – although perhaps without the provision of links to related resources.

Now as devices such as a Flip can be purchased for less than £100 pounds, and uploading videos on Google Video can be done for free a question I would ask is “if conference organisers fail to make such alternatives for papers presented at conferences, could this be regarded as a failure to take reasonable measures to provide access to services for people with disabilities?”  Isn’t it unreasonable to fail to invest £100 to enhance the effectiveness of conferences along the lines I’ve suggested and demonstrated? And, indeed, doesn’t the informality used in talks provide a valuable alternative to people who may be put off by the nature of the language which is found in research publications.

16 Responses to “Videoing Talks As A Means Of Providing Equivalent Experiences”

  1. It doesn’t strike me that video adds much here over audio – i.e it would have been just as effective in terms of getting your presentation content “out there” to have recorded audio and then turning the presentation into a Slideshare slidecast.

    Video is a nice gimmick (in this case) but no more? (Note: I’m not suggesting that this is always the case – but I think it is in this particular case).

    By concentrating only on audio, you could have got a better audio track (the audio in the video seems quite poor quality to me – maybe just me?). IMHO, getting the audio right is much more important than worrying about video.


  2. Code Gorilla said

    The issue for me is that the Zentation presentation is solely a visual medium. By choice, it excludes non-visual users…. it is discriminatory.

    I have no problem with providing such a feature…. but only as an addition to the core data: the presentation (as represented by the slides).

    One of the things that really annoys me about Web 2.0 evangelists is the seeming disregard (or even ignoring) of the part of the world that is not visually oriented.

    I spend way to many hours of my life fighting designers and marketers who want a design that looks great in PhotoShop, and they’ve even mocked up, but only in IE, on Windows…
    Accessibility is about providing a service to everyone, without limit, without discrimination – regardless of platform, of client, of ability.

    I am not going to wash it all away with some web 2.0 cleverness.
    I have no problems with additional features being available to those who can – but the core message needs to be uniformly accessible.
    For everyone.
    Without discrimination.

  3. Most presentation software (Powerpoint, Keynote) allow you to export slides as HTML. That ought to be a first step.

  4. Hi Andy – Interesting comment. As you know I do record audio and synch the audio with the slides, usually on Slideshare. However I personally how found that I do watch a video when I don’t know the speaker, so perhaps we need to evaluate a wider set of scenarios – it would be interesting to get a wider set of views on the benefits which use of multimedia can provide.

    The sound quality issue is interesting – as you will be aware, the video camera was further away from me than would have been the case if I had been using a sound recorder.

    Of course, @CodeGorilla will probably argue that the audio will discriminate against the deaf, as so shouldn’t be used, and as the slides and paper probably aren’t meaningful to people with learning difficulties, we shouldn’t be doing anything at all :-)

  5. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner said

    You say “I could make the resources conform to WCAG guidelines
    if I removed all but the HTML version of the paper”
    . What WCAG
    guideline do you think you’re violating?

    Guideline 1 says “Provide content that, when presented to the user,
    conveys essentially the same function or purpose as auditory or visual

    Clearly HTML is suitable for providing content that “conveys essentially
    the same function” as the other versions. Having done that, you are
    free to provide whatever other formats you want.

    Also I think we’re getting a bit confused about this innerweb thingy.
    If you stick a powerpoint file on a server, that’s just a file that can
    be downloaded by FTP, HTTP or whatever protocol you feel like supporting.
    That’ll be the internet.

    The powerpoint file isn’t “web content”. Not even if there’s a web page
    that makes it accessible. Sticking content in a powerpoint file isn’t
    “putting it on the web”, it’s deciding not to put it on the web.

  6. codegorilla said

    Actually, CodeGorilla would suggest that if the audio is the primary content, can you not caption it?

    What would you do if you were going to give your talk to an audience and you knew (in advance) that there was going to be a blind person in the room?

  7. Hi Roland, the WCAG guidelines were always ambiguous in this respect. If you feel that non-HTML Web content isn’t covered by WCAG, then having a Flash-only Web site wouldn’t break the guidelines. But most people would argue that such an approach would infringe the guidelines. And from a Web architecture perspective (and remember the WCAG guidelines were developed by the organisation which developed the Web architectural principles) the Web is the world which is addressable using a URI. And that includes PowerPoint content on Web sites. I should also ad that I am aware of at least one organisation which felt that it should remove PowerPoint slides in order to avoid the potential of infringing SENDA accessibility legislation.

    Fortunately (or not, perhaps) the WCAG 2.0 guidelines clarify this ambiguity and refer to all Web content addressable using a URI. This will mean that if you previously had PowerPoint files on your Web site which you argued were out-of-scope of WCAG 1.0, then when WCAG 2.0 comes out the resources will be in-scope.

  8. “@codegorilla You ask “What would you do if you were going to give your talk to an audience and you knew (in advance) that there was going to be a blind person in the room?” The answer is I have given presentations at a number of events which blind people (e.g. a couple of RNIB conferences, 4 W4A events, a number of national conferences on accessibility, etc.) and people with other disabilities have attended (e.g. at a recent event there was a deaf users who had a signer). And I’ve done what I always do – I use PowerPoint and I ask if people can hear me. An if there are problems, I make reasonable adjustments. I also tell people that I’ll try to make audio and video recordings of my talks, as well as multiple versions of the slides, available, so they can use them after the event.

    On a recent occasion when there was a signer in the audience, I gave her a copy of the thumbnails of my PowerPoints so she could familiarise herself with the content and clarify any of the technical terms.

    The feedback I have received from people with disabilities is the need for organisations (and individuals) to take ‘reasonable measures’ and not to artificially conform to rules which may not be applicable in all circumstances or would be too costly to implement.

    So for me, having a video of a talk can be a simple solution which may be of benefit to small numbers of users, and at little cost and effort to me.

  9. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner said

    My point is the guideline that says “Provide content that, when presented to the user, conveys essentially the same function or purpose as auditory or visual content” isn’t violated by placing a powerpoint file on a server along with an HTML representation. Assuming the HTML version is done correctly, of course.

    (The question “What WCAG guideline do you think you’re violating?” wasn’t rhetorical, BTW.)

    Regarding the web as being “anything addressable with a URI” is not a reasonable definition. A URI might be used to address a file on an FTP server; do FTP servers now have to provide HTML versions of all their content? The FTP server in question may even have existed before Web!

  10. WCAG 1.0 Guideline 11 states “Use W3C technologies (according to specification) and follow accessibility guidelines. Where it is not possible to use a W3C technology, or doing so results in material that does not transform gracefully, provide an alternative version of the content that is accessible.

    MS Office formats are not W3C technologies, and so infringe the first sentence – and you could use W3C technologies for desktop presentation and for documents. The HTML versions of PowerPoint often don’t conform with HTML DTDs.

    Note the W3C have described the Web as URI-addressible space, as you will see from W3C’s Universal Resource Identifiers — Axioms of Web Architecture document:

    The Web is a universal information space. It is a space in the sense that things in it have an address. The “addresses”, “names”, or as we call them here identifiers, are the subject of this article. They are called Universal Resource Identifiers (URIs).

    The document goes on to say “An information object is “on the web” if it has a URI“. Note this says nothing about the format of the object.

  11. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner said

    There’s no problem with WCAG no. 11 since it allows for “an alternative version of the content”.

    An argument could be made that Powerpoint offers nothing useful that you can’t do in HTML; and therefore you shouldn’t offer a Powerpoint version. I have sympathy with that view. But, if you can argue that Powerpoint does add something you can’t do with HTML, then you’ve made a case that satisfies guideline 11.

    You’re right that MS Office generated HTML often doesn’t conform to DTDs, but that just means that (strictly) it isn’t HTML at all. You have to offer a proper HTML version to satisfy WCAG; and quite right too!

    As to URIs, consider what can be given a URI. How about a machine-to-machine interface? Is one of these, with no human users whatever, supposed to conform to WCAG guidelines?

    Also you could give a URI to an executable file. Does this infringe WCAG if that file is an application that is not accessible? (The MP3 player I’m listening to right now has a URI).

    BTW a Flash only web site is implicitly web page(s) that contain Flash objects. Possibly the only visible (in the graphical sense) objects could be Flash, but it still uses HTML: therefore unquestionably “web”. If you had a server that just allowed the downloading of the flash files but had no web pages in which they were embedded, that wouldn’t be a “flash only web site”.

  12. Hmm, so “All things on the Web have URIs, therefore all things with URIs are on the Web?!”

    Not sure Aristotle would approve. :-)

  13. BTW, that Axioms doc you cite, Brian, appears to be a “personal view” of TBL from 1996 – out-of-date in many ways, and hardly a formal W3C recommendation.

  14. […] Code for Blog « Videoing Talks As A Means Of Providing Equivalent Experiences Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends […]

  15. […] This was an argument made recently by “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” in a comment on this blog who felt that “Regarding the web as being “anything addressable with a URI” is not a […]

  16. […] But in addition such disablist approaches may also be taken by those so immersed in the Web environment, that they fail to appreciate the benefits for people with disabilities of blended approaches, as illustrated in a post on Videoing Talks As A Means Of Providing Equivalent Experiences. […]

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