How fast should subtitles be shown?

a desk with two computer screens and subtitles at the bottom It seems most of us can read subtitles more quickly than first thought. Recent research has revealed that the golden standard of the six second rule doesn’t have any (traceable) evidence to back it up. Now that we know people watch audiovisual materials more frequently with subtitles and captions, this is an important topic – what is the optimum speed? A study from Europe has helped answer that question and it isn’t one-size-fits all. Using evidence from eye movements, Agnieszka Szarkowska , Olivia Gerber-Morón found that viewers can keep up with fast subtitles and that slow speeds can actually be annoying. However, future research needs to include a wider range of people with different levels of reading skill. The title of the paper is, Viewers can keep up with fast subtitles: Evidence from eye movements. Here is the abstract:

“People watch subtitled audiovisual materials more than ever before. With the proliferation of subtitled content, we are also witnessing an increase in subtitle speeds. However, there is an ongoing controversy about what optimum subtitle speeds should be. This study looks into whether viewers can keep up with increasingly fast subtitles and whether the way people cope with subtitled content depends on their familiarity with subtitling and on their knowledge of the language of the film soundtrack. We tested 74 English, Polish and Spanish viewers watching films subtitled at different speeds (12, 16 and 20 characters per second). The films were either in Hungarian, a language unknown to the participants (Experiment 1), or in English (Experiment 2). We measured viewers’ comprehension, self-reported cognitive load, scene and subtitle recognition, preferences and enjoyment. By analyzing people’s eye gaze, we were able to discover that most viewers could read the subtitles as well as follow the images, coping well even with fast subtitle speeds. Slow subtitles triggered more re-reading, particularly in English clips, causing more frustration and less enjoyment. Faster subtitles with unreduced text were preferred in the case of English videos, and slower subtitles with text edited down in Hungarian videos. The results provide empirical grounds for revisiting current subtitling practices to enable more efficient processing of subtitled videos for viewers.

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Tactile or 3D?

A metal model showing a town layout in relief with Braille on buildings and streets. There is a church and lots of houses and a town square represented.Three researchers from Monash University carried out a study to see if 3D printed models offered more information than tactile graphics such as maps. There were some interesting findings that were presented in a conference paper. The abstract gives a good overview:

Abstract: Tactile maps are widely used in Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training for people with blindness and severe vision impairment. Commodity 3D printers now offer an alternative way to present accessible graphics, however it is unclear if 3D models offer advantages over tactile equivalents for 2D graphics such as maps. In a controlled study with 16 touch readers, we found that 3D models were preferred, enabled the use of more easily understood icons, facilitated better short term recall and allowed relative height of map elements to be more easily understood. Analysis of hand movements revealed the use of novel strategies for systematic scanning of the 3D model and gaining an overview of the map. Finally, we explored how 3D printed maps can be augmented with interactive audio labels, replacing less practical braille labels. Our findings suggest that 3D printed maps do indeed offer advantages for O&M training. 

Paradoxically, the freely available PDF version is in two columns and in Times New Roman font – both aspects that are not recommended for people with low vision or for screen readers. The full title of the paper is, “Accessible Maps for the Blind: Comparing 3D Printed Models with Tactile Graphics”.  You can see a related article that found 3D models helped everyone’s understanding.

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Captioning – how is it done?

Front page of the video - deep yellow background with white text and an Auslan interpreter is standing readyThe Australian Government has produced an interesting video showing how captioning is done. It is a behind the scenes look and captioners tell how they do it. You can see them at their desks in action. One point of interest is that programs made overseas often have captions, but they don’t always come with the program when a network buys it. Intellectual property rights become problematic and in the end it is often quicker and cheaper to re-do the captions here in Australia. So that might account for why SBS is more likely to have uncaptioned programs than some other networks – unless they are subtitled of course. It is worth noting in live captioning situations that the captioner has to be able to hear the speaker and manage the speed of their speech. Good reason to speak up, speak clearly and not talk too fast. Good for other listeners and lip readers too! There is a second video showing how to turn captions on.  Note: automatic captions by Google can’t interpret speech properly and there is no punctuation. Some people call this “craptioning”. 

 

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How many steps at the Sydney Opera House?

A page from the theatre access guide showing the steps to and from the Joan Sutherland TheatreThe Sydney Opera House has produced a guide to the number of steps in various paths of travel throughout the venue. This is to help patrons decide which seats are best to book for the greatest convenience, and to help with traversing such a large building, particularly if you are not familiar with it. Of course there are lifts and escalators in some places, and more will be added during the current major refurbishments. The Theatre Access Guide can be downloaded from the Sydney Opera House website. The picture shows one page from the Guide.

Editor’s note: It would be interesting to know how many other venues in Australia have this type of guide – not just a standard access guide, which is usually for wheelchair users, people who are blind or have low vision, or are deaf or hard of hearing. Knowing how far you have to walk is important for non wheelchair users and people accompanying wheelchair users.

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Visual artforms for everyone

Two pars of hands touch a head and shoulders statueA nice article about access to the displays and contents of art galleries and museums for people who are blind or have low vision. Audio description is one way of providing access, tactile representations are another. The Beyond Disability webpage article shows how art is becoming more accessible for blind and low-vision communities around the world.

3D printing has changed many things and 3D representations of prints are now possible. Braille can also be introduced into visual art. See the article to find out the interesting and creative ways that art and other exhibits can be made accessible. Indeed, these methods are an art form in their own right.

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Performances for everyone

The Sydney Opera House is keen to be inclusive with their performances, and activities.  Accessibility Program Manager, Jenny Spinak, has spearheaded much of the progress in creating an inclusive program. The Accessibility page of their website has more than just information on how to access the building and parking. With the upcoming winter lights festival, Vivid Sydney, the Opera House is staging several accessible performances with audio description and Auslan interpreters. 

Previously the Sydney Opera House included an autism-friendly performance of the musical The King and I. You can see more in the video link below.

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Inclusive Meetings and Events

front cover of Accessible Events guide. purple with white writingMany event managers and venues have yet to get their head around their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act. While many public buildings may have access through the front door and accessible toilet, this does not make for an inclusive event. Did anyone think about a handrail on the steps to the podium, a lower lectern for a seated speaker, or what to do with the guide dog?

Venue owners and managers, caterers and equipment suppliers are yet to get up to speed with what is required. Meetings and Events Australia have a comprehensive handbook on accessible events which was written in consultation with the Human Rights Commission in 2012. However, it appears only to be available to members of the Association and is not visible on their web home page. Nevertheless, a Google search will also find the Accessible Events Guide.  The Guide also has a checklist at the end. 

front cover access events vic gov.Free to access guides include the Victorian Government guide and checklist. This one uses easy access English as well, so the guide itself is accessible, and covers the role of MC and speakers. Also the West Australian Government checklist is available.

Factors that many organisers might not think about are, a drinking bowl for an assistance dog, the way the event or meeting is promoted, and ensuring there is lighting on the face of speakers for lip readers.

Editor’s Note: While trying to think of everything to make the 2014 Universal Design Conference inclusive, we found the suppliers of the staging equipment did not have a handrail for the steps and the wheelchair ramp was too steep to climb without help. The one-size fits all lectern is also a problem. Rarely is there a lectern that a seated person or person of short stature can use. 

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Inclusive event and meeting guides

front cover of Accessible Events guide. purple with white writingFully accessible venues can still be difficult to find. Getting in the door and having an accessible toilet is only the start. Venue owners and managers, caterers and equipment suppliers are yet to get up to speed with what is required. Indeed, while trying to think of everything to make the 2014 Universal Design Conference inclusive, we found the suppliers of the staging equipment did not have a handrail for the steps and the wheelchair ramp was too steep to climb without help. The one-size fits all lectern is also a problem. Rarely is there a lectern that a seated person or person of short stature can use.

Meetings and Events Australia have a comprehensive handbook on accessible events which was written in consultation with the Human Rights Commission in 2012. The Guide also has a checklist at the end. 

Free to access guides include the Event Accessibility Checklist from Australian Network on Disability.  Also the West Australian Government checklist is available.

Factors that many organisers might not think about are, a drinking bowl for an assistance dog, the way the event or meeting is promoted, and ensuring there is lighting on the face of speakers for lip readers.

Editor’s Note: In my experience, some event operators aren’t aware that they have to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

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