Now listen carefully

young girl in a classroom setting looking at an iPadListen closely. To some people, these are words are of little help. No matter how carefully they attend, some of the words go missing. The result is reduced listening comprehension. Hearing aids, FM hearing augmentation systems, and cochlear implants do not provide the speech clarity required to understand every word that is said. This is where captioning comes to the rescue. Research into captioning in learning situations is showing how much students of any age can benefit. This is regardless whether they have good hearing or not.

Anyone who has clicked a YouTube video for Google automated captioning knows it is useless, albeit sometimes funny. Automated captioning programs have improved a lot lately. For example, Interact-AS is designed for school children from about age 7 upwards. The teacher wears a microphone and the in less than two seconds words appear on the student’s computer or tablet. The before and after results show both children and teachers just how much comprehension is being is being lost. 

You can read more about this technology and the benefits to students who didn’t realise how much they were missing. Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are usually diagnosed before they reach the age of 7. Low levels of hearing loss is not always apparent in children who, for example, might have experienced many ear infections. As a consequence they would miss out on the benefits of this technology. Perhaps this further research will reveal the need for routine hearing tests for all school age children. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and how soon it will become mainstream for all students as an aid to staying focused and learning from both listening and reading. You can read more about the value of captioning in higher education settings for all students.

Closed captions help all students

YouTube logo and Closed Captions logoWith tertiary education institutions turning to online learning and creating videos of lectures, the need to caption these videos could be more important for all students than first realised. The findings of this study show the need for more work in this area, but early results show that captioning benefits most students, with or without disability. This finding could transfer to the general community. 

“When queried whether captions were helpful, 99% of students reported they were helpful (5% slightly, 10% moderately, 35% very, 49% extremely). We were unable to determine differences among students with and without disabilities, as we did not track individual survey responses.” Interestingly, in this study 13% of respondents indicated having a disability, but only 6% were registered as such.

young female at a desk with laptop, coffee cup and notebookVarious reasons were given for the benefits of closed captioning – noise in their listening environment, unclear speech in the video, spelling of new or unfamiliar words, and being able to take notes just by stopping the video and not needing to rewind to listen again. Students with English as a second language also benefitted. Although these results show the need for more research, they found there was a 7% increase in student results compared to the previous year’s students who did not have captioning. The article also discusses the cost of captioning and other options, such as speech recognition. The title of the article is, Closed Captioning Matters: Examining the Value of Closed Captions for All Students, and is published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 2016.

Editor’s note: Anyone who has seen the results of “automatic” online Google captioning will know that the results are very haphazard. It is good to see how captioning is now being seen within the scope of universal design and could be more widely applied.

Maps and colour deficient users

The colours of the rainbow arranged as a wheelColour is often used in map designs to help observers locate places of interest, and community amenities, among other features. However, not everyone can perceive colour in the same way as map makers. Members of the Faculty of Computer Science and Media Technology, Norway have turned their attention to map reading and the ability to discern different colours. Two articles were published from their research: Quality of color coding in maps for color deficient observers; and Colour coding of maps for colour deficient Observers. The latter requires purchase or institutional access. The abstract from the former follows:

Abstract: For a color deficient observer, the quality of a map or other information design may be defined as the ability to extract features. As color is such important conveyor of information, the colors need to appear correct and be perceived in the desired and intended way. As color appearance is affected by the size of the stimuli, the task of discriminate colors may be even more difficult for a color vision deficient observer. In order to investigate the discriminability of the color coding in an official Norwegian map product, we conducted an experiment involving both color deficient and color normal observers. Also, we investigate to what extent the ability to discriminate colors is influenced by size of the visual field. The experiment revealed that the color vision deficient observers made significant more errors than the normal observers, especially when the visual angle was reduced.

 

Economics of UD ICT

Front cover of publicationWhen governments and private enterprise fail to listen to social justice arguments it is often thought that economic arguments will win the day. This may be partially true if these arguments are allowed to be heard. “On Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Universal Design of ICT”, is another attempt at showing that universal design has cost benefits, particularly if you take the longer view. 

Abstract: In the ICT and IT domains, Universal Design is typically viewed as a burden and an expense, and its application is often justified only by ethics and/or legislation. Advocates for Universal Design (UD) are arguing that it is cost-effective, but so far there are few studies that document this in a detailed way. In this work, we discuss related research and studies dealing with the costs and benefits of accessible and usable ICT solutions. In particular, we discuss the findings regarding what is a universally designed solution, what is needed to make such a solution, how much does it cost, what impact can be anticipated by the extra effort, and how it can be measured. Finally, we suggest an approach for carrying out cost-benefit analyses of developing universally designed solutions. There is a weak indication that the economical benefits of UD solutions are much higher than the initial and running costs.

I think it is problematic to talk “cost-benefit” because politically it seems it has to benefit those who are not excluded. “Cost effectiveness” is a somewhat different measure with a focus on outcomes rather than outputs. Schraner et al have developed a different model using assistive technology as a case study. Jane Bringolf, Editor.

The Eyes have it!

Picture of Jordan NguyenThe recent ABC science program, Catalyst, featured a new invention by Dr Jordan Nguyen. It demonstrated how a 13 year old boy living with cerebral palsy could use his eyes to directly control the lights, the fan and the television. Various environmental control systems designed for people with disability have been commercially available for many years, but these often require the use of a tablet or computer. Occupational therapists and bio-medical/rehabilitation engineers can skillfully adapt existing devices to suit individual needs. 

Research on eye-tracking or eye-gaze systems is going on all the time and David Hobbs and his team at Flinders University are at the forefront of such inventions and adaptations. For those interested in some of the background to these systems, you can download their most recent publication on using low cost, portable, tablet-based systems for children.

Spectronics Australia has a catalogue of assistive technologies for children with disability, including devices using eye-gaze techniques. 

 

Teaching UD and Inclusion to designers

inclusive design symbolsProfessor Simeon Keates has been researching aspects of universal/inclusive design over many years. In this article he focuses on how designers can acquire the knowledge and skills to gain information about users and apply it to the design.

Abstract: Designing for Universal Access requires designers to have a good understanding of the full range of users and their capabilities, appropriate datasets, and the most suitable tools and techniques. Education clearly plays an important role in helping designers acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to find the relevant information about the users and then apply it to produce a genuinely inclusive design. This paper presents a reflective analysis of a variant of the “Usability and Accessibility” course for MSc students, developed and delivered by the author over five successive semesters at the IT University of Copenhagen. The aim is to examine whether this course provided an effective and useful method for raising the issues around Universal Access with the designers of the future. This paper examines the results and conclusions from the students over five semesters of this course and provides an overview of the success of the different design and evaluation methods. The paper concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of each of the specific methods, techniques and tools used in the course, both from design and education perspectives.

Download the article from Universal Access in the Information Society,  , Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 97-110

Blending UD, e-Learning and ICT

elearningThe authors* of this chapter examine how to blend universal design (UD) with e-learning tools used by post-secondary faculty and with information and communication technologies (ICTs) used by students in traditional classroom, hybrid, and online courses. The focus is on how instructors can design and deliver their courses in an accessible way using e-learning.  The authors conclude: “Considering UD when selecting and using e-learning materials in traditional, hybrid, and online courses can ensure an accessible learning experience for the diversity of students in today’s colleges and universities. Collaboration between the wide array of stakeholders is needed to design, implement, and support accessibility and usability. This includes the students, instructors, ICT vendors, institutional IT procurement specialists, and campus disability service providers.”

*In S. E. Burgstahler (Ed.), Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice (2nd ed.), pp. 275-284. Boston: Harvard Education Press.

Dowload the chapter here 

Disability and mobile Internet

world wide webGerard Goggin’s latest publication focuses on the Internet, which is now 25 years old, but mobile Internet accessibility is struggling to keep up. He asks, “the web is our virtual commons, but how can we empower all people to use and contribute to the web regardless of language and ability?”

Gerard Goggin is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydisability in australia goggin newelldney. His research focuses on the social and cultural aspects of mobile media and Internet, as well as disability and digital technology. He co-authored the landmark book with the late Christopher Newell, Disability in Australia: Exposing a social apartheid.  A review of the book provides an overview of the issues covered.  A good reference for understanding the routine oppression of people with disabilty in Australia.

Access, accessibility and the iPhone

iphone-4-ios-7-iphone-4sBlurred lines: Accessibility, disability and definitional limitations.

This paper explores the history and utility of the concept of “accessibility” in relation to the iPhone and similar devices, and the difficulties of differentiating between accessibility for people with disability and usability concerns for the general public. Elizabeth Ellcessor is assistant professor of cinema and media studies, and has an engaging way of writing. She says the case of iOS7 indicates the difficulties of defining both accessibility and disability in the contemporary moment. Increasingly, the lines between accessibility and usability, disability and difference, accommodation and preference are blurring. 

The author uses disability theory to argue that access is a complicated phenomenon, and that even given the difficulties in establishing definitions of “accessibility,” the concept is worthwhile because it carries with it reminders of the politics of difference, the difficulties of access, the history of disability rights, and the relationship of media to civil rights and public participation. Download the document.

Note: the webpage is not particularly accessible with on-screen small print.

Internet use by older people with low vision

world-wide-web_318-9868Internet use: Perceptions and experiences of visually impaired older adults, published in the Journal of Social Inclusion, provides some excellent qualitative research – the comments from older people with vision loss are especially revealing. Anyone involved in internet communications should read this, especially those designing and posting to websites and designing email platforms. The study comes from the University of Northumbria, Newcastle UK. Note: the authors use the term “visually impaired”. In Australia the correct term is “vision impaired” or “people with low vision”.

Griffith University PressThis study has been made freely available by Griffith University Press.