ALCTS Forum: The Case for Making Video Content Accessible

The ALCTS Forum, titled “The Case for Making Video Content Accessible,” was held at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting on Monday, February 12. It was a big room for this morning event late in the Midwinter schedule, most of us huddled against the cold, tired after a busy weekend, coffee in hand. ALCTS President Mary Beth Thompson welcomed attendees to this year’s ALCTS Forum with updates on the association, ending her remarks with a special thank you and a round of applause to Sage Publications, Inc. for sponsoring the event.

Then the audiovisual equipment went haywire, with static and echoes emanating from the microphone or speakers or from the very walls themselves—not very accessible. I suddenly felt very connected to those who benefit most from enhanced multimedia, and I wondered what our sign language interpreters were all laughing about as we waited (and waited) for the program to begin.

Okay, 30 minutes later we had a whole new sound system and a few less bodies in the audience, but I’m glad I stayed. Violaine Iglesias, director of business development at GVPi, did an excellent job highlighting the benefits of multimedia accessibility. These include meeting legal mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), reaching a wider audience (including English-language learners), improving the user experience, and enhancing comprehension through better user engagement. In addition, written transcripts promote web discoverability and “indexability,” important to both publishers and higher education. Her presentation wasn’t a sales pitch, but she did note a new fully accessible media player coming out soon called “Elements Play” that will allow for compliance under the law.

Danielle Whren Johnson is the copyright & special projects librarian at Loyola Notre Dame Library. What they have learned during the past five years of program development has led them to find meaningful solutions for video captioning. For example, with third-party hosted videos, the content should be expected to include transcripts as part of the license agreement. YouTube offers captioning services, and there are free or paid services through captioning organizations such as Amara. Baseline captioning often requires some editing at the home institution, which the Loyola Notre Dame Library has accomplished through workflows involving student assistants.

Stefan Elnabli, media curation librarian at the UC San Diego Library, pointed out the intersection of preservation and accessibility and emphasized the importance of lifecycle management of media. VHS tapes suffer from physical deterioration, poor quality, obsolescence, and dwindling circulation. Reformatting is an opportunity to improve accessibility. With due diligence (see “VAR: Strategies for Preserving Commercial Video Collections in Libraries“), only a small portion of library holdings may be good candidates for digitization. A successful (if relatively expensive) pilot at UC San Diego has the support of the Office for Students and Disabilities, and the library’s Digital Library Development Program. Elnabi suggested that the Submission Information Package (SIP) for video going into your repositories should include transcripts as well as closed captioning.

I came away from the ALCTS Forum wholeheartedly convinced of the importance and benefits of improving accessibility, including discoverability and enhanced learning for a variety of audiences. Our technology glitch left the whole room without sound, further driving the message home: options for access are always a good thing.

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