Developing an ADA accessible multimedia player for online learners

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This presentation addresses the modifications and improvements made to our educational multimedia player to allow for screen reader accessibility and screen navigation support, as well as how we support standards-based captioning across media types used in the player. Such improvements make it more compliant with Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 Level A standards for those with audio, visual, or physical navigation disabilities.

Presenters

Laurie Berry is an Instructional Designer for the Health and Wellness Management, Masters degree program at the University of Wisconsin Extended Campus. Laurie holds a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology (IDT) from Western Illinois University. She has over five years of experience in the instructional design field.

Extended Abstract

The University of Wisconsin-Extension Division of Continuing Education, Outreach & E-Learning (CEOEL) develops and moderates media-rich online courses for the UW System schools.  CEOEL has developed an open-sourced media content delivery tool titled Storybook+ that is used extensively to deliver all multimedia content used in coursework. This tool allows students to watch videos, follow along with demonstrations, listen to lectures, and take self-check tests of understanding in Brightspace (D2L), our online learning management system.

As all courses are completely online, with no opportunity for face-to-face instruction, we as instructional designers strive to anticipate learner media needs before classes open and provide tools to facilitate meaningful interaction with audio and visual media. Because CEOEL offers online courses in coordination with many UW System schools, we know that at least some of our potential learner audience has accessibility needs, particularly for the media content that forms the backbone of many courses.  Until recently, we had not comprehensively reviewed our media player to identify whether and how it engaged this portion of our student audience.

The focus of our presentation is to address the modifications and improvements made to allow for screen reader accessibility and screen navigation support, as well as how we support standards-based captioning across media types used in the player. Collaborating with our software developers and accessibility experts, we made changes to the multimedia player to make it more compliant with Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 Level A standards for those with audio, visual, or physical navigation disabilities.  Modifications made to the Storybook+ Player allow it to be more compatible with JAWS and VoiceOver screen reader software.  Such improvements grant learners access to multimedia content and course materials that may have otherwise been inaccessible.  Because Storybook+ Player is an open-source tool, other universities and schools can offer students a media player with the improved accessibility features.

We set three goals to make the Storybook+ Player more ADA accessible and compliant with both Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 level A standards.  First, we enabled keyboard navigation.  Originally, learners could not use keyboard shortcuts to navigate the complete presentation; navigate between the different parts of a slide; play, pause, rewind, etc. the video content; adjust the output volume; or turn the display captions on or off.  To support this feature, we coded the player to identify its components and allow keyboard navigation between them.  We also utilized the shortcut keys already built into the screen reader software.  Incorporating these allows a user to easily navigate the multimedia content housed in the player. 

Second, we enabled captions for narrated presentations.  Originally, if an instructor narrated over a series of presentation slides, Storybook+ Player was unable to display closed captions.  This was a significant issue because much of our course content takes the form of narrated slides.  To address this need, each slide has been broken into its own unit.  As a result, all slides are now able to support captioning.   

Our third goal involved submitting the Storybook+ Player for qualified accessibility expert review and experienced screen reader user review.  These reviews allowed us to determine how the changes we made are used in practice.  From these reviews, we made technical improvements to create a more robust multimedia player that allows all users to have access to the online educational content.

Key Takeaways:

  • Creating a more accessible media player is as much about understanding people's perspectives and needs as it is about improving technology
  • We have created an open-source multimedia player used for online educational content that is now accessible for JAWS, VoiceOver, and NVDA screen reader software, and is compliant with Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 Level A standards.