Natalie, Boclips Account Manager and education accessibility advocate, discusses what instructional designers can do to stay on top of accessibility requirements and democratize digital learning.
Natalie Jung explains how to maximize engagement and improve content accessibility with a variety of media. [For a transcription, scroll to the fourth question of Part I.]
In the second half of a two-part interview, Natalie Jung, an Account Manager at Boclips, explains how to build more accessible learning environments with educational videos.
If you haven't read Part 1, check it out on our blog. There, Natalie provides an overview of accessibility in digital learning. She also describes the experience of losing her sight in her 20s.
Editor’s note: This transcription has been edited for clarity and length.
For creators who want to improve their educational content’s accessibility, where would you recommend they start? Are there any Boclips content partners you could uphold as examples?
When it comes to creating video content that's accessible, I would primarily consider sensory impairments. Is the content I'm producing accessible to someone who cannot see it well? Is there any invisible information — on a blackboard behind me or on a map, for example — that's not being read out loud?
Audio descriptions can be especially helpful for learners who can’t see well. But a lot of times, those descriptions are spoken during the content creator’s silences. A lot of educational videos have a constant stream of audio, so there's not much room for audio descriptions.
Personally, when I'm tutoring or helping students, I read out loud anything that's on the blackboard. For folks who may benefit from hearing and seeing that information, there’s an extra aid. For anybody who can’t see what's on the blackboard, they get access to that content.
On the flip side, is there any information inaccessible to someone who cannot hear well? That's generally taken care of with closed captions, which is something that Boclips provides or that you as a content provider may create yourself.
A lot of times, content partners might have textual information on the screen, and then there's music in the background. That is highly inaccessible. In those instances, I would recommend using a human voice to narrate, rather than a machine-generated voice over, if possible. But any voiceover narration is helpful for users who are blind or low vision.
That includes users who are color blind, or who just have different visual perception than the typical person. Color contrast (and tools, such as Colorable, that help designers identify contrast levels) can be helpful for many users — so, think white-on-black or black-on-white. There are a few color combinations that are easier to see for folks who are color blind or who have different visual impairments.
Personally, one color that’s easy for me to see is “recycling can blue.” I like seeing that color in videos, versus a pale pink, for example, which looks like gray to me and a lot of others, who are color blind.
Overall, I’d recommend being conscious of the colors you're using and making text big. It's not only helpful for people with visual impairments — those changes can really help information pop out for anybody.
For schools and organizations considering a Boclips partnership, can you tease out some of the distinctions between Boclips’ platform and student-facing video accessibility standards?
Accessibility is important to Boclips across the board. But I do think it's important for our clients to tease out who is seeing what content. The typical customer I work with is more concerned about accessibility for students, who are only perceiving videos. Those videos are typically embedded into the curriculum or sent to students in some other manner. Boclips’ platform, which allows course creators and publishers to search those videos, doesn't reach students.
For clients curious about accessibility for their employees who use Boclips’ platform, I would recommend reviewing our VPAT. Our accessibility team is eager to fix any accessibility bugs that may be found on that platform. That eagerness seems to be pretty typical among creators of online resources, where the goal is to have WCAG 2.0 AA compliance.
When it comes to the videos themselves, most of the time, our videos are sent to us directly from our content partners, and we have limited control over what features we can add or change. For example, if there is something that's not highly accessible in the video, such as text on a blackboard, we cannot change it. We're always happy to reach out to the content partner and provide feedback, but we can’t destructively edit the creator’s original content.
We can do non-destructive editing, such as add additional accessibility features to the video. We can add accompanying files to have the high-quality SRT or BTT caption files, for example. We also have the option to process the file for audio descriptions through a trusted vendor.
Looking ahead, how do you see accessibility shaping education content creation and use in the future?
I will say, one of my fears is that concerns over accessibility may hinder the use of multimedia content within curricula. I've talked with several people who have expressed concern about accessibility — mostly the legal impacts of non-compliance with accessibility standards, or missed goals and accessibility. They have opted not to use videos or multimedia content. Fear of non-compliance is scaring some folks away from really moving educational content forward.
I think educators should have the opposite response. Of course, when you’re exploring integrating multimedia features into your curriculum, you need to be aware of accessibility rules. But that just means you need to do a little bit more, and lean on accessibility experts more. Make sure the vendors you're working with can provide captions and audio descriptions. Make sure you’ll have transcripts for any users who aren't able to access those accessibility features. And be cognizant of the vehicles you use to deliver information — videos, podcasts, text transcripts. This range of formats can help open the door and welcome all learners to your curriculum. I think that's a much better solution than running away, scared of the threat of litigation from accessibility goals, and getting stuck in the past.
As part of a community of folks with different abilities, I’m aware that technology is moving forward. We're not trying to hold anyone back. We just want to be involved in the process. We want to be at the table and able to provide input and make sure there are options for people of all abilities. The goal is not at all to hinder any sort of technological progress.
My hope is that technology companies will continue to build on their accessibility roadmaps. It seems like something everyone is really passionate about, and everyone is really asking a lot of questions about. I'm hoping those kinds of conversations continue and we're all able to understand a little more about the community — and about how best to extend our curriculum or education to all learners.
What are your tips for making courseware more accessible? We'd love to know.
If you'd like to learn more about Boclips and how you might use educational videos in your courseware, please get in touch with us. And stay tuned for the next interview in our Digital Learning Dialogues series.