EA Draffan talks about Alternative Formats for Inclusive Technologies for Reading (#itr12)

Uploaded by load2learn on 26.11.2012

Load2Learn - Making curriculum materials accessible
Hello I'm EA Draffan and I've worked for many years with accessible technologies and in
particular with those who have dyslexia and visual impairments, or print impairments,
as we may call them nowadays.
This video is going to be all about alternative formats. These are accessible documents in
the main, but in particular we're going to be looking at the different types of formats
and the way we can describe these formats. Some people talk about them as โ€˜alt' formats
for short. And I have to admit than when we're working with them the most important thing
is to think about the individual. One size does not fit all. It's really important that
we think about personalisation. And the other thing is that if you are going to consider
alternative formats, think about multiple formats. The sort of multiple formats I'm
talking about are going to suit a much wider range of disabilities or difficulties. In
particular those who have dyslexia and visual impairments, as well as blindness.
One of the issues that we actually discover, when we're reading, is that we like to do
it in different ways. And it can depend on where we are, what we're doing, and the time
of day. It's really important to be aware of this. So there may be a moment when you
like to read a book, maybe another time when you want to actually listen to it, and there
may be another time when you actually want to have both of those modalities working for
you. So that you are looking at the text and hearing it.
Perhaps we need to ask, how many formats exist, before we look at the ones that we're going
to discuss. There are an awful lot of them. Wikipedia, for instance, lists over 35 formats.
There are now around 89 e-readers, the sort of things you see in W. H. Smith and PC World,
and on the internet, are just a tip of an iceberg that's going to be happening in the
coming years. So with over 150 e-book software options some of us may be asking, which ones
are really accessible.
I think it's time we took a minimalist approach for this video, otherwise we'd be here for
a very, very long time. There is no way that we can cover all the formats that are available.
We're going to look in particular at some of the ones we know we can actually work with
students with, which are audio recordings, plain text, navigable text, by that I mean
DAISY format, or even Word format, which if it has the right style sheets can be very
easy to use. Large print, but not so large that it's impossible to read at the right
sort of speed. And then Braille.
One of the issues we have with alternative formats is how they're used in schools with
dyslexic students. And in fact the main question we should be asking is, are alternative formats
used with our dyslexic students. What does the research show? Well it's actually very
depressing. We've worked on several projects recently, the Accessible Resources Project,
and now a project called Metal, which is all about meta data, and looking at how we can
actually find books and materials on the internet. We've looked at it from the point of view
of our students in universities and colleges, and we're finding that an awful lot of them
are not using alternative formats. Very often the teachers aren't aware of what sort of
alternative formats can help dyslexic students. But we know when students do use alternative
formats they actually work particularly well. When, for instance, words are made larger,
font size is increased, and we've changed the colour and the background, the size, the
style, and actually adapted to suit the individual. These settings are incredibly easy to achieve.
There are built in settings on computers, Word itself makes it easy to do it. Several
other different programmes can offer you, in particular colour changes, such as highlighting
when you're reading. Well known ones are ClaroRead, from Claro Software, Text Help Read and Write
Gold from Text Help, Dolphin SaySo, and several others. And there are also the free ones that
we know about, and are going to learn about, in later videos.
So where is the common ground, between those who have a visual impairment, and those who
are perhaps dyslexic or have reading difficulties. We often think of them as very different difficulties,
and it would be right to think that. Because not always can we actually help students in
a similar way. But when we looked at the sort of changes the students were making, and this
was some research we did with 40 students, we found that both the visually impaired and
the dyslexic students were changing font sizes. Some of our dyslexic students were also using
different contrast levels. Maybe not the same as those with visual impairments, but they
were also using colours such as black on yellow. Then we were looking at magnification and
zoom, and if you're using a PDF, we found our dyslexic students were zooming just as
much as our visually impaired students were, so that the text and the graphics were larger.
But you'll notice there's something missing here, in this list of the changes to settings
And it's one that students don't very often think about. We'll talk about it in a minute
and I want you to be thinking, what was missed in fact.
Both visually impaired students, and dyslexic students, are happy to use technology when
they've had the help and the equipment is there. What we found often was that the specialist
technologies were not available for all the lessons, the students didn't necessarily have
computers in their History lessons, their English lessons, for reading. Even though
when dyslexic students did use the technologies it was Text To Speech that seemed to help
them the most, and very often the visually impaired students obviously needed magnification.
But the graph you're looking at, at the moment, is specifically one that came from a group
of 30 dyslexic students who were introduced just recently for the Metal Project. 90% were
not changing anything on their computers, or even using assistive technologies. And
this is very sad when we know that the research shows how much it can help, and provide independence.
I think the other thing that we really discovered in this research that's absolutely vital,
is that if they are using technology in school, please allow them to take it home, or if possible
make it possible for them to have it at home. One of the recent projects that the government
funded was some access at home technologies on laptops, and this was shown to help the
students when they came back into the school. Despite the fact that they might have been
doing Facebook and doing emails, they were actually taking ownership and took control
of the preferences that they had on their laptops.
So what are our concerns for our dyslexic students? Well, we'd very much like you all
to be thinking about the font changes, the styles, the colours, the sans serifs, the
14 to 16 point, the Text to Speech with highlighting if possible, so that you have a bi-modal approach
to reading, that they're hearing it as well as seeing the text. And then, can you guess,
the thing that we missed out in our graph, that no one mentioned, and no student mentioned
in our research when we were evaluating what they were doing. It was increasing line spacing.
We know that can help many students. It can also help those who have visual stress.
But there's something else too that's very important. And that is that with younger students
we found that they wanted their books to appear the same as the ones that their peers were
reading. So if they had a PDF on their iPad or Kindle, or whatever it was they were using,
their laptop, they wanted those pictures to be in place, so they could share the experience
with their colleagues. I have to say that some of them didn't like it when their texts
were made into a rather boring bit of plain text and it just read out. This was something
that we discovered in both Japanese students, when I was over there, and in English students.
So we know that the look and feel can be important for some students. The other thing is, we
found that many of our students who were receiving study skills support were not getting assistive
technology strategies to work with their study skills. So, the training on assistive technology
may happen at a totally different time, they'd be told how to use a particular technology,
walk away from that, then go and write an essay, but not see how they could use that
technology with that particular essay. So we think there is a need to combine study
skill support with the use of technology where possible. The other thing we found is, where
this had happened, and where some strategies such as you're seeing here with Screenshot
Reader, which comes with ABBYY Fine Reader, but also with both Claro and Text Help. As
you heard, you can see that they were able to actually have it read out to them.
So do we need to look at this business of electronic digital versions of text. Well,
the answer is we do, but very few of our students are doing so. And I think that this is absolutely
an imperative for the future. It is not just those who have visual impairments who need
to be having access to alternative formats. It is absolutely, and I think abundantly clear,
from so much of the research now, that those students who have access to e-books with full
Text to Speech narration will very often have higher oral retelling scores. In other words
they're able to say and comprehend more about what they've just been reading.
But moving on to visual stress, which we know is part of the difficulties that many dyslexic
students have. I really feel that it's important to understand this issue better. We don't
know enough about it. I'm going to show you a slide that you may feel a little uncomfortable
watching, so please turn away if you feel you have any of these sorts of difficulties,
in particular epilepsy or visual stress. Scotopic sensitivity is another term used. Text that
jumps is extremely uncomfortable for anyone who's reading for any length of time. There
is a very nice programme called Sim-dis, that you can actually go and look at on the internet.
Jisctechdis have put this up several years ago, it will require Shockwave, but if you
can look at it you'll actually see how rivers of text can impact on reading skills, how
jumping text has this awful uncomfortable feeling, that you wish to look away from it.
You can make it much easier for our students to be able to read by producing colour options
with overlays, but also we're back to using larger, sans serif fonts, we're back to the
line spacing. And then, as you'll see from that middle line, the importance of clear
headings and left justification. If you're reading a large amount of text this can be
equally important.
So we know increased reading speeds can happen with coloured overlays, but in particular,
when you're offering a wide range of colours, and when you're making sure that you change
them over time, so that the eyes don't get used to that colour. For visual acuity, magnification,
screen reading, larger fonts, but do check the distance that your student is reading
from the text. Because if they're so close to it consider how easy it is for them to
read any amount of text over time, it can be very tiring. High contrast mode, in particularly
dependent on the individual need. What are the preferences? We know there are many different
types of visual impairment. Once again, no one size fits all. Please do check with the
student how comfortable they feel with what you're offering. The student voice is imperative.
Low vision affects speed more than it does accuracy and comprehension. Research has shown
that accuracy and comprehension are often more dependent on the age, and of course obviously
the reading materials.
And what about blindness? Are students who may not have been blind from birth often wish
to think visually, not just orally. And so the different text formats and conversions
can be equally complex. We do need to think about what they want in different situations.
There is also this issue about human voices versus synthetic voices, and we're going to
be talking about that later. One of the things we found with screen reading is that if you
speed it up the synthetic voice can deteriorate when it comes to listening to how good the
actual prosody intonation patterns and division between words are. So think carefully about
the type of synthetic voice being offered. Human voices are far more relaxing and for
leisure I think they're an option that one needs to consider, and the RNIB have done
this over many years. We know that DAISY, with navigable text, is a real plus for these
sorts of students. But hopefully in the future EPUB3 is coming online, and it's a much more
common type of format in that it's very often found on our portable technologies, such as
iPads, Android Tablets and other ones. Braille, used by the small minority, I think you know
Peter White and several other well known blind individuals will say they cannot work without
it. It can be absolutely essential. But be aware that at the very beginning, if not later,
your student who is using Braille will be a slow reader and you need to take this into
We still have huge gaps in our knowledge about alternative formats. We don't know the best
mix of desktop and mobile technologies yet. We're only just being aware of the impact
of, for instance, the iPad and the Kindle. We're realising that many schools are thinking
of giving them out, universities have already done so, but there are enormous difficulties
about sharing books on these devices. We really are not sure about the amount of extra time
needed for individuals to work with different alterative formats and assistive technologies.
How many hours can you ask a student to sit in an exam? You certainly can't give 100%
if your exam is three hours, and yet very often that's what's offered. We need to be
thinking about the breaks, we need to be thinking about better use of the technologies.
Finally, what is the best alternative format for use across the platforms, for each type
of activity and difficulty? Does it depend on the type of reading? Does it depend on
the type of day? We really don't know all the answers. So, always offer multiple formats
where possible. I do hope this has given you some taster for alternative formats. Thank
you for listening.
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