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Accessible Telecollaboration and Web Conferencing in the Workplace Christian Vogler, Paula Tucker, Norman Williams, Judith Harkins Technology Access Program.

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Presentation on theme: "Accessible Telecollaboration and Web Conferencing in the Workplace Christian Vogler, Paula Tucker, Norman Williams, Judith Harkins Technology Access Program."— Presentation transcript:

1 Accessible Telecollaboration and Web Conferencing in the Workplace Christian Vogler, Paula Tucker, Norman Williams, Judith Harkins Technology Access Program Gallaudet University TDI 19 th Biennial International Conference Austin, TX June 3, 2011

2 Overview We present ongoing work by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access (RERC-TA): 1. Introduction: What and Why? 2. Gathering information on and solving accessibility problems 1. Focus Groups 2. Online accessibility forum 3. R&D on prototype solutions 3. Summary

3 Introduction: What is telecollaboration? Using telecommunication and Internet technologies To interact in real time with others who are not in the same physical location, and working to produce or create something together. [show demo video]

4 Telecollaboration is not VRS We dont just have a chat together, like in a conference call. Rather, we collaborate through multiple channels of information, such as: Video Text Presentations Movies Documents However: Some systems allow calling into a phone number to talk to other participants via audio/video.

5 How widely used? $83.3 million industry in 2007 projected $3.2 billion industry by 2014

6 Where Used? Used in business for meetings, seminars, training Used in education for on-line courses, distance learning, collaboration with colleagues Becoming more popular as it becomes more expensive and cumbersome to travel.

7 Telecollaboration Accessibility As always with new communication technologies: There are new opportunities for people with disabilities. And new barriers. Accessibility cannot be an afterthought – telecollaboration systems need to be designed from the ground up with it in mind.

8 Gathering Information on Accessibility First we have to know what the accessibility barriers are, before we can fix them. Our research comprises three stages of gathering information and involving the community: 1. Focus groups – tell us what kinds of things to pay attention to 2. Web conferencing accessibility forum: Exchanges between consumers and industry online – lets us investigate issues in more depth, and work with industry on solutions 3. R&D and testing accessible technology prototypes – test what concrete solutions work, and make it easy for industry to adopt them

9 1. Focus Groups

10 What is a Focus Group? A focus group is: an opportunity to gather and document the experiences and relevant issues of a small group of people with a common interest. an opportunity to ask questions in an interactive setting where participants are encouraged to comment on what other participants have said. A focus group is not: a generalization of the experiences of everyone within a particular group.

11 Requirements for Participation Participated in at least 2 teleconferences and/or webinars in the past year. Age 18 or older. Have access to a telephone line/videophone to call in to the focus group conference call. Have a computer and broadband connection active during the call. Be available for 2 hours of discussion.

12 Who Participated? Blind: Users who access their computers via screen readers or Braille. Low Vision: Users who access their computers via screen readers or magnified/enlarged text. Deaf: Users who participate in teleconferences via ASL (using VRS or on-site interpreters) Hard of hearing: Users who participate in teleconferences using speech and text (e.g., CART, CapTel, etc.)

13 Set-Up For each focus group, participants were given A toll-free call-in number A link to access either WebEx or Accessible Event to see focus group PowerPoint with questions A link to see live captions WebEx: Software that allows collaboration for online meetings, including sharing documents, PowerPoints, etc. Accessible Event: Same idea as WebEx, but designed for blind and low vision users.

14 Preliminary Results: Benefits of Telecollaboration (a few) Common to all: Comfort of participating from home or office with no need to worry about difficulty or expense of travel. Ability to review printed material using computer and software that you are comfortable using. Blind/low vision Levels the playing field on an audio only call – they cant see participants body language and facial expressions, but neither can anyone else.

15 Common Barriers: Getting the Floor Deaf and hard of hearing users Always slightly behind because of translation delay and/or captioning delay By the time they get the floor, topic may have changed and dont want to feel embarrassed by being off-topic Blind and low vision users May not be able to access software tools like hand raising so dont know when to jump in

16 Barriers: Speaker Identification Common problem for all groups as participants often fail to identify themselves before speaking, even when reminded. Deaf and hard of hearing: Interpreter/captioner is unfamiliar with participants and cant identify who is speaking. Blind/low vision: In a video conference, they cant see who is speaking. May become confused when a deaf person changes voice interpreters, especially when it is a new interpreter of a different gender!

17 Barriers: Not accommodating user needs Deaf/hard of hearing Unwillingness of organizer to provide interpreters and/or CART. Blind/low vision Not providing printed materials in advance Choosing color schemes that do not provide enough contrast Selecting web conferencing software that cant be used with screen reader/magnification software.

18 Barriers: Technical Issues Common: Too many bells and whistles make system too complex to use easily. Deaf and hard of hearing Many software programs do not include captioning support. Video quality is fine for a talking head, but not good enough for sign language. Blind/low vision Software not compatible with users screen reader/Braille/magnification software. Unable to read inaccessible PowerPoints, pdfs, diagrams, graphs, etc. Unable to change features such as color contrast to meet their individual needs. Impossible to use programs that require a mouse for maneuvering through the program.

19 Barriers: Being misunderstood/misinterpreted Deaf/hard of hearing Problems pop up when the interpreter is not familiar with the subject matter, especially if it is something technical. When relying on VRS, a change of interpreters means a new interpreter jumping in mid-discussion and not knowing the topic, speakers, vocabulary that had been introduced already, etc. Errors in captioning lead to inappropriate responses to questions

20 Result of barriers? All participants said they sometimes try to avoid web conferences where the access issues are too difficult to overcome. Some give up part-way through because they cant follow whats going on. They hope theyll be able to review the materials later, and a colleague will catch them up. Losing participants because of access issues means a loss to the group of their knowledge and their experience.

21 2. Webconferencing Accessibility Forum

22 What is this Forum? We are launching a new web site open to anyone: WebConfAccess is a place to find, review, and discuss web conferencing tools and accessibility issues for people with disabilities

23 WebConfAccess Goals Recall: Focus groups tell us what some of the issues are, but we cannot generalize them to all people The WebConfAccess forum lets us start with the focus group results as a basis, and solicit more input from a wider community It provides a mechanism for community and industry to learn about accessibility issues, and to engage with each other It also serves as a database for concrete information on accessibility features of specific products

24 Goals (continued) The overarching goal: Get detailed information on specific barriers and guide R&D on what can be done to resolve them

25 WebConfAccess features Content is generated collaboratively by the community Submit experience reports by telecollaboration product, disability, feature, and role Respond to and comment on other reports Review and develop guidelines and best practices Search for specific features and products [Show hands-on demo]

26 3. R&D and prototype accessibility solutions

27 Development of prototypes Some prototypes will arise out of the results of the focus groups and the online forum. Others are being developed and tested concurrently, such as the following examples.

28 R&D – Captioning Deaf/hard of hearing CART integrated into conferencing system Ability to control position of captions Ability to change size and color of captions

29 Crowdsourced CART error correction Ability of group participants to correct errors (technical terms, names, etc.) of CART text Deaf group participants – didnt like the idea. Thought participants should be involved in the conference, not busy correcting errors. Hard of hearing participants – Thought it was an interesting idea, but didnt see how it could really be implemented.

30 R&D – Automatic speaker identification Everyone wanted this! Deaf/hard of hearing Highlight speakers name on captions Colored or flashing box around video box of speaker Blind/low vision Announce name of person when selected by moderator

31 R&D – Preference profile Ability to customize interface of the system Deaf/hard of hearing Add box for remote interpreter Ability to integrate captions Blind/low vision Ability to change screen color/contrast/font type and size

32 Summary Telecollaboration is growing rapidly; e.g. many workplaces and universities are implementing such systems; online webinars and conferences are widely offered We need to identify accessibility problems and pursue solutions now, before it is too late; the work by RERC- TA focuses on this.

33 Summary: Wish List Involve users with access issues in software development and design. Much harder to solve accessibility issues later. TEST TEST TEST with users to identify problems and then fix them!

34 Acknowledgments The contents of this presentation were developed with funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education, grant number H133E090001 (RERC on Telecommunications Access). However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

35 Questions? Contact: (202) 250-2795 Web conferencing and telecollaboration accessibility site:

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