Rich media - images, audio and video - can significantly enhance engagement and learning for many students.
Each type of media has its own “accessibility profile” which benefit some learners may cause a barrier to others. By ensuring that the key teaching points are available in text format (for example in the body text, captions, transcripts or subtitles etc) you can add maximum value to maximum number of people and make searching and navigation easier.
The accessibility of an image depends on technical factors (brightness, contrast, sharpness) as well as pedagogical factors (how effectively it is labelled, how well it is described, how it is integrated into a text/audio narrative).
If the key teaching points are available in captions, body text or alt tags then potential barriers are minimised.
Video and multimedia
Videos can stimulate discussion, clarify explanations or allow learners to record their skills and abilities.
Free tools and services such as Screencast-o-matic, TinyTake or Jing can help tutors/learners turn still images into narrated movie clips. PowerPoint 2013 or above has an automatic screen recording tool under the Insert options.
Apps for tablet devices (e.g. EduCreations, Book Creator, ThingLink, Explain Everything) make it easy to create multimedia content with embedded video/images and raw videos can be taken on most smartphones. See this video example of a learner using Educreations.
Some processes which cannot be videoed can be effectively visualised using animation instead of using animated GIF files or PowerPoint animations.
Multimedia can add considerable value for a wide range of accessibility needs but may present barriers to those with poor sight or hearing. Visual formats also tend to be far less searchable and navigable than text.
By ensuring that the key teaching and learning points of multimedia are covered in a summary, transcript or captions, you reduce potential barriers for everyone.
Creating rich media and interactivity is no longer a specialist job requiring expensive training and tools. Free content creation tools such as Xerte toolkits and eXeLearning or bundled tools like Microsoft Office Mix and Sway, as well as a range of apps, allow staff or students to create sophisticated interactivities including quizzes with instant feedback.
Some interactivities add a lot of value to one kind of learner but prove to be a barrier for another – for example dragging and dropping slope labels onto a contour map will be a fun revision tool for many learners but a barrier for a blind person.
You could adapt the coding to make it technically accessible but the resulting activity would require immense concentration and memory for a blind user – not at all a ‘fun, revision tool’. In circumstances like this it is important to get the balance right.
It can be appropriate to have 'partially accessible' resources on the network if they benefit many learners so long as an alternative resource (in this case perhaps a tactile alternative) is available. However, it makes little sense to waste the time of the developer and the blind student in making an inappropriate learning experience easier to access.
Accessibility is as much related to the pedagogical approach as it is to the nature of the resource. Being creative about different types of reasonable adjustment will allow you more freedom to be innovative with both the online and the offline experiences.