Building a Culture to Support Universal Access

Committing to caption all the video content at a university requires shared cultural values, a sound strategy, and a strong technical infrastructure.

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is in a unique position to develop workflows for captioning: the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) resides on the same campus. RIT has made focused efforts to promote and support equal access for its deaf and hard of hearing population.

RIT works to make sure all faculty know how vital captioning is to their students–not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) holds that captioning helps all learners, including students with English as their second language, those with different learning styles, and those who just want an alternative to audio.

Staff within the Innovative Learning Institute work side-by-side with faculty on their course designs. They help provide them with an understanding of how captioning supports universal access. RIT offers training sessions for faculty and reaches out to new faculty every fall to stress the importance of accessibility for all learners.

The commitment to captioning and accessibility is valued by RIT’s leaders. The Provost distributes captioning guidelines every semester, sponsors the Provost Deaf Access Committee to prioritize concerns from the community, and has created promotional videos to raise awareness. Commitment from senior leadership is key to setting a common goal for the whole Institute.

In addition, RIT staff participation at every level is critical to developing its culture. When interpreters in the classroom encounter uncaptioned video material, they have business cards they can hand to faculty to help connect them to automatic captioning resources.

Interpreters also informally educate faculty on the nuances between interpreting video material and captions, explaining how difficult it is for a student to look at an interpreter while trying to follow the video at the same time.

It is critical that support staff also have the tools required to help faculty meet demand. A video production staff benefits from the right captioning tools and automated workflows, such as those provided by Brightspace, Ensemble Video and Automatic Sync Technologies (AST).

Integrated workflows allow staff to submit a video for captioning to AST and to have caption files sent directly back to the media delivery platform. They can then share the content in Brightspace. Having all of this directly linked to the learning environment makes the process extremely efficient.

RIT has been working on providing access to all learners for decades. The current strategy is increasing the number of faculty getting content captioned, allowing our staff to meet the increased demand, and ultimately supporting RIT and NTID’s culture of universal access.

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