The Immersive Accessibility Project is a European project which aims to find the best way to incorporate audio description and spoken subtitles into virtual reality and 360° video content, for people who are blind, or partially sighted, deaf and hard-of hearing. To do so, we’ve developed the ImAc player which has different types of audio description and spoken subtitles, members of the ImAc project are conducting pilots with the player to obtain feedback on what format our target audiences prefer. Here in the UK the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the largest charity for blind and partially sighted people in the UK, have carried out pilots across different areas of the United Kingdom. This article is about our process of sourcing participants for the pilots.
In order to recruit people for the pilots, a call for participants was shared with blind and partially sighted people on our RNIB Connect Facebook Groups, these are groups RNIB created to provide blind and partially sighted people a community space in different areas of the UK. It had information about the ImAc project, such as why virtual reality and 360-degree content should be made accessible and how this could be done. As well as why it was important for people with sight loss to take part, because their experiences could help develop a guidance for the industry itself.
Along with a brief overview of what the pilot would entail, how to sign up and additional details on reimbursing travel expenses and offering vouchers to our volunteers. Virtual reality content continues to grow in the market, so it’s understandable that blind and partially sighted people want to partake in it and assist in making it as accessible as possible. Perhaps this is the reason behind the level of interest in the project. For most projects it can take time to get a response from others, so it’s common to start looking for participants early in the process. But to our surprise we received emails from people interested in the research, quite quickly.
Organising the Pilots:
Once people started sharing their interest in the pilot, we began contacting them over the phone. During these conversations we provided a detailed outline on the process of the pilot itself, when it would take place and asked them key questions to collect important data for the research and arrange the pilots. The questions were about if they were a screen reader user, magnification user, the closest RNIB office from where they lived, their preferred date and time for the pilot and which gift card they would like in exchange for volunteering. All of which enabled us to create a schedule of the different dates the pilots would take place in each location, number of people on each day and the time slots for each participant. The next step was to email each person with these dates, to see if they were available. We also emailed additional information they requested, such as the address of the RNIB office they would be travelling to. At this stage it’s common for changes to be made, due to various unforeseen circumstances. It’s important to be adaptable in these situations. In our case some participants could no longer do the dates we agreed upon so had to drop out, or we had to reschedule the sessions due to technical difficulties on our parts and participants weren’t available on the new dates. To tackle this we wrote follow up emails for each participant, confirming if they were available to take part. Along with thanking those that had offered to do the pilot but were no longer able to.
We’ve now done several pilots and will be doing more this month. So far the feedback from participants has been excellent. They enjoyed the different types of audio description and spoken subtitles. Once all the pilots are done, it’ll be interesting to review the data and learn what the overall response is. We look forward to sharing it with you in the near future.