Increasing Accessibility of Audiovisual Materials in the Institutional Repository at FSU by guest blogger Camille Thomas

As recipients of a 2020 PLAN Innovation Grant, Florida State University’s Office of Digital Research and Scholarship sought to increase the level of accessibility in the university’s institutional repository (IR), Diginole, by creating closed-captions and written transcriptions for audiovisual collection materials. This blog post will outline the processes of identifying materials for captioning/transcription, selecting a vendor, and provide general, practical information related to the projects that other institutions can hopefully leverage for their own improvements to their IRs.

Outside the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship, two important collaborators at FSU were Krystal Thomas, Digital Archivist for Special Collections & Archives, and Kimboo York, Assistive Technology Coordinator at the Office of Accessibility Services. Krystal’s overall knowledge of the collections in Diginole were incredibly valuable early in the process and helped hone in our project to the Research Repository side of Diginole. Kimboo also provided a helpful overview of accessibility initiatives and services across campus, insight into federal and University regulations, and connected us with the vendor we ultimately worked with on this project–The Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI) at Georgia Tech.

After these consultations, the next phase involved gathering metadata and evaluating eligibility of collection items to be included in this project. The first step of this process fell to Rachel Smart, Repository Specialist, who, searching by content-type in Diginole, pulled a list of the 151 audio and video objects in the repository and organized them into a shared spreadsheet. Next, Rachel, Dave Rodriguez, Resident Media Librarian, and Camille Thomas, Scholarly Communications Librarian, reviewed each item individually to check for spoken dialogue and determine which items would be appropriate for captioning and transcription. In addition to determining what objects were suitable, we also recorded the duration of each object in an effort to estimate costs.

Once we identified the candidate objects to be sent to CIDI, we began the somewhat laborious process of downloading individual audio and video files from Diginole. We managed this work by setting up “sprints” where we dedicated 30-60 minutes to this task as a group. After just a couple of these meetings, all the information was ready to be sent to CIDI.

Working with CIDI

After setting up an institutional account for FSU Libraries, we were sent login credentials to their service portal (see Figure 1) where we would upload audio and video files, track the status of individual submissions, and update or modify requests as needed. Throughout the project, communication with CIDI staff was consistent and cordial, and they were incredibly helpful and timely in resolving any issues and answering questions.

Figure 1: Dashboard view on initial log into CIDI member service portal.

For each AV object we received either a WebVTT caption file, a text file (.docx) containing a transcription and description of the audio material, or both in the case of videos. With many modern online video players, a WebVTT file can be uploaded  along with a video and be toggled on and off. While the underlying Islandora architecture that currently supports Diginole does not have this functionality, FSU’s new IR will be able to support this level of accessibility.

Figure 2: Video still w/ closed captioning from If These Walls Could Talk, a short documentary produced by FSU students.

Next steps and looking ahead

With FSU Libraries working on shifting its IR to a new platform, and one of the many benefits of this is that our new infrastructure will support media playback with captioning via the video.js player. This represents a significant upgrade from our previous system and creates space for even more accessibility features such as audio descriptive tracks and multi-language audio and subtitle content in the future.

With the implementation of a new IR platform, we are excited to explore proactive (as opposed to reactive) approaches to increasing the accessibility of our digital collections. The current COVID crisis has highlighted the importance of these materials to distance education and the necessity of robust remote access in promoting research and the next generation of scholarly outputs. This project represents an important first step in FSU sustaining a more inclusive IR and we hope can provide guidance for organizations interested in doing the same.

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