Making Videos Accessible

>> Terrill: I’m Terrill Thompson. I’m an IT Accessibility Specialist at the University of Washington. Video is a really powerful medium and benefits a lot of people, but also creates some barriers. So if somebody who is unable to hear the video then they need some equivalent to the audio so that’s where captions come in. >>Doug: My name is Doug Hayman. I work at the University of Washington in the Accessible Technology Services group and my function here with this group is working around captioning efforts. More and more people are using videos in their technology instructions or even providing information about their groups if they’re using an outward facing webpage. And they’re relying on YouTube clips or Vimeo or Facebook or a whole variety of different modes and they’re maybe not thinking about the end-users benefiting from captions. And that could be not only people who are deaf or hard of hearing but also people who English is not their primary language or somebody that’s in a distracted environment where they can’t turn up the volume, they can turn the captions on if they’re available and be able to take in the same information.

>> Narrator: In Spring 2017, a popular new class was offered at the University of Washington. Although there were no requests for captions from students in the class, its instructors decided that all lectures would be posted online with captions. >> Carl: I’m Carl Bergstrom and I’m a professor in the Department of Biology. >> Jevin: I’m Jevin West. I’m an assistant professor in the Information School. >> Carl: This class is a brand-new class that we’re teaching called “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data.” And it’s something we’ve been wanting to teach for a long time. We’ve kind of been dreaming about doing it and we’ve actually been able to put together for this quarter. The main idea of the class is to teach people how to see through BS in quantitative forms because these days, instead of just getting fancy rhetoric, we’re getting an awful lot of misleading graphs and figures and tables and models and algorithms and the point of this course is to help students learn to challenge those and see when they’re being misled by that kind of information.

>>Jevin: For this class we wanted to move beyond just the 160 students in our classroom. We wanted to scale to the world and we’re thinking big about this class just because we think that these skills are really, really important. So if you’re scaling to the world and you want to have a world audience, we wanted to make it as accessible to as many people as possible.

>>Carl: Not only are they useful when there are hearing challenges but it can be useful when English is not your first language. I’m not the easiest to understand when I’m speaking and so I’ve had people email and say they appreciated the captioning because it was much easier for them as English as a second or third or fourth language person to be able to follow what was going on in the classes. So that was this added bonus and really contributed, I think, to this worldwide accessibility that we’re aiming for. >>Jevin: Because the class uses sometimes jargon, just like any class on a university, someone can go back and try to hear exactly what that word was, they can see it in print. >>Narrator: Students, including Austin Wright-Pettibone, say the captioned lectures have been a bonus. They’re like another set of notes. >>Austin Wright-Pettibone: You know it really helps me engage with the material because I can be in lecture and just have my entire focus on what’s being told to me and then I can go back and really come and supplement my learning with the videos themselves.

I think it’s critical to helping us to process that information because as we’re getting so much that’s being thrown at us we need to make sure we can take that step back and that’s what those videos help us do. >>Narrator: When you create captions, be sure to leave enough room on the screen so the captions won’t cover people’s faces or important content. This is a good way to frame interviews, so there’s enough room on screen for captions and other graphics. >>Sheryl: My name is Sheryl Burgstahler and I direct Accessible Technology Services at the University of Washington in Seattle.

>>Narrator: But this interview is framed too tight for captions and name graphics. >>Sheryl: My name is Sheryl Burgstahler and I direct Accessible Technology Services at the University of Washington in Seattle. >>Narrator: Another recent video “Best of UW 2016,” included captions for a very different reason. >>Gina: I’m Gina Hills. I’m the web communications director for University Marketing And Communications. This year’s video was all visual, with music. We did close caption the video. The first stage was we put a little thing that said “music” on there. But then one of the people in our department went a step further. They described the music in captions. >>Terrill: If you watch that video, the music contributes significantly to the emotion that the video creates.

So it’s featuring a lot of the really wonderful things that have happened at the university over the last year, in 2016, and the music builds and swells and just becomes much more dramatic as the piece, you know, grows. And so they revised the captions and really did an excellent job I think of capturing exactly what the music is doing throughout this piece as it grows and swells. >>Terrill: The other thing that’s interesting about the “Best of UW 2016” is that it was entirely music. There is no spoken audio, therefore somebody who can’t see it gets nothing out of it other than the music. So they hear the music and it’s a wonderful piece but to them it’s just a music video. They have no idea that all these wonderful things happened at the university. So all those details are missing for them. So that particularly is a video that requires audio description.

>>Audio description: Words appear. Hashtag Best of UW 2016. The Nobel Medal next to David J. Thouless, 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics. With President Obama, Mary-Claire King, National Medal of Science. UW and Microsoft break record for DNA data storage. A collage of photos, Inaugural Husky 100. >>Gina: We covered all bases, all audiences, and didn’t leave anybody out in terms of experiencing the previous year at the university. I think that this is a good model for what we can do and what we should do and what we should aspire to. >>Sheryl: One suggestion I have to other institutions is to think clearly about what they’re going to do proactively. And what they’re going to do reactively. For instance, when it comes to captioning videos, we believe strongly that every video should be captioned on our campus but that’s probably not going to happen, at least overnight. So we have two approaches. One is we make sure that our disability services offices caption videos immediately, like within a day or two, when they are asked for an accommodation from a person who’s deaf.

But that’s not where we end. That’s not where we stop. Because there are a lot of people that look at videos that are not even enrolled in courses. So on the publicly available videos we have a service where we will find funding centrally to caption those videos. >>Jevin: We’re very appreciative of the help we’re getting. We know how difficult it is to add these extra features and we’ve had tremendous support. We send in the videos. They come back captioned. >>Carl: They’re beautiful. >>Jevin: They look great and people are consuming them. >>Carl: It’s a win for everybody..

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