Continuity Plans and COVID-19
COVID-19, a respiratory disease that has led to extensive quarantine measures, has dominated global news recently. In light of the outbreak, many organizations are temporarily suspending travel and in-person meetings and are searching for alternative ways to conduct business. Many businesses and educational organizations are developing continuity plans for scenarios where large segments of their workforce or students and customers are forced to work remotely. It’s impressive how quickly organizations have taken steps to address the need to work remotely, and we applaud the efforts that have been made so far. However, one gap that continuity planners are grappling with is a challenge that has been familiar to distance learning experts for many years: how do you scale your video and audio accessibility services so that remote workers, learners, and customers with disabilities continue to have equal access?
How Have Institutions Addressed the Need to Work Remotely?
Distance Learning groups have been addressing the need for remote instruction for many years, and they are one of the top examples for those looking to find an accessible web-based solution for instruction. One example of a recent response to the new coronavirus is St. Joseph’s University’s continuity plan. In a blog from Inside Higher Ed, the authors noted the importance of video and captioning when developing an instructional continuity plan for disaster responses. As is the case when planning for lessons and course material, instructors should be thinking about ways to convert their classroom instruction for a remote solution ahead of time, in order to ensure that students get access to the material they need without delay. This includes converting any lessons and course material to a digitally accessible format, such as captioned and described video.
For online instruction, institutions with remote solutions have used both live and recorded video to help in this scenario. Some instructors choose to use pre-recorded media for their instruction, by filming or creating video that would then be posted to an LMS or shared with students post-production. Some instructors, on the other hand, prefer to teach in real-time, using video streaming services. For instructors who prefer to teach live, institutions have also leveraged online meeting and conferencing tools like Zoom Video Communications to help livestream classes to students remotely. Another example of an institution who has fully transitioned to remote learning through the use of video conferencing and their LMS is the University of Washington.
In both asynchronous and live remote instruction scenarios, institutions should develop a plan to prevent accessibility problems that can be shared broadly with faculty and staff. It helps to have a consolidated, easy-to-understand plan such as an Equally Effective Alternative Access Plan (EEAAP).
The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
Institutions and businesses have really been putting in the work when it comes to providing remote solutions, but an accessibility plan for video also needs to be in place in order for continuity plans to be effective. Providing post-production captioning and transcription, audio description, and live captioning are important factors in building an effective continuity plan, as it ensures that accommodation needs are met for all individuals affected by a transition to remote learning. In all cases, courses that have students with accommodations and public facing content should be prioritized for captioning.
To help start video accessibility planning, consider developing continuity plans that increase the use of lecture capture platforms and associated captioning integrations already being used in your institution. Similarly, schools and enterprises should anticipate making greater use of web meeting platforms such as Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate, along with live captioning, in order to offer accessible remote instruction, meetings, and training.
Organizations at the forefront of the digital transformation in education that are also prioritizing digital accessibility, such as University of Indiana and University of Illinois, are best positioned to implement successful business and instruction continuity plans.
If your institution or business is currently developing your continuity plan for a transition to remote instruction or business meetings, we’re here to help you with your video accessibility needs. We know that developing a continuity plan takes time and effort, and the spread of COVID-19 is pushing stakeholders to make plans on very tight timelines. Making video truly accessible has alway been challenging, but we’re up for the challenge and want to be your partner in the effort. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help!