I'm at the airport on the way back from a lovely visit to Penn State's Schuylkill campus (many thanks to Elinor and Tom Madigan for being such gracious hosts, with thought-provoking conversation and amazing food!) and gleefully eyeing the (gigantic!) moon pies sitting beside me.

One of the folks I met last night at dinner was David Beahm, who left a comment that I started responding to... and the response grew long enough that I decided "okay, it's a post now." So here goes.

You are also forcing me to rethink my approach to educational videos, which have been strictly screencasts with voice-over.  How do you deal with those when you encounter them?

I turn the volume up really, really loud.

I'm halfway serious about that. I can hear some (bass), so I certainly watch and enjoy videos (especially music), but usually can't understand words in them -- I'd compare it to your experience watching an unsubtitled film in a language you don't know. You get some things, sure -- but you can't assume you'll actually extract and learn content from them, since you simply don't know what you're missing.

I've been blessed with some extremely good and patient friends, including a wonderful boyfriend, who are in my field. The "in my field" bit is important, since I'm an engineer and most people can't grok the technical terminology even if they can hear. As I've gotten into more and more advanced material, it's harder and harder to get support, so you can imagine the nightmares I'm having of my PhD defense in a few years.

Anyway, these wonderfully gracious people occasionally transcribe short videos for me (insanely time-consuming), or sit next to me and repeat the words back while the video is playing (so I can switch between lipreading them and seeing the video), or... similarly awkward arrangements -- but they're the best we can do, and it's better than nothing. I am incredibly grateful for this -- and it obviously doesn't scale, nor is it a system I ought to rely upon. Because it's so labor-intensive, this happens for perhaps one video every few months. Now, compare that to the frequency you probably watch web videos at... there are people who watch more web videos in a day than I've had made fully accessible to me in my entire lifetime.

Anyhow, returning to the original point: as far as educational videos go, I assume by default that I can't use them. I find a book or website or something else on the same subject (guessing from the video title). There are platforms (such as dotsub and opencaptions) that let people transcribe web videos so folks like me can understand them, but the vast majority of videos are untranscribed. To get an idea of what the video world looks like for me, mute your computer audio, go to YouTube, and start trying to watch the clips you'd normally find interesting. Suddenly, the world looks much, much smaller.

This isn't just a problem for people with hearing loss or auditory processing issues. Students with attention deficit, students who aren't 100% fluent in English... captioning and transcribing has been shown to help them considerably as well. On a more pragmatic, publisher-facing note, no transcripts means the video is harder to find (because search engines don't pick up keywords in the text).

Now, I think educational videos can be excellent and I'm not saying people shouldn't do them -- they are accessible to most, and if you can make more immersive, interactive multimedia -- why not? (Heck, I make these videos myself sometimes.) Some people learn visually, some auditorily... the main thing, though, is to make sure that each student can get to the content in a format that's accessible to them.

Let me repeat that, because it's important. We need to make sure that each student can get to the content in a format that's accessible to them. I'm used to having to ask for this myself, and wait for it (getting the content on a delay compared to my classmates in many cases), so when someone anticipates and accommodates me ahead of time, it's glorious. (And sometimes students struggle silently and don't ask. Sometimes I do this, too. I'm a very proud person...)

The easy solution for video is to post the voiceover script alongside it. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. If you want to consider visually impaired users as well, things like "selecting colors with high contrast for color-blind people" and "provide a text description of the visuals so screenreaders can read that out loud" become important. I totally realize that not everyone has time to do that all the time for every little video, which is why I'm also a fan of releasing your work under a Creative Commons license so that it's possible for others to remix it into a more accessible format (translate into different languages, subtitle, remaster, etc).

That's probably more than you wanted to know. I've dealt with this all my life, and can talk about it... pretty much forever.