3.1 Alternative content
Assistive technology can give access only to whatever is on the screen as part of the eLearning material; it doesn’t provide any alternative content, unless this is specifically added. For example, a screen reader cannot interpret visual content but it can read a description if one has been provided.
Multimedia content might need to be supplemented with the same content in other formats. Deaf students need transcripts of audiovisual content. If the video is an interview, a simple transcript may be sufficient; for more complex material the transcript may need to be synchronised with the visual flow, or provided as time-linked captions within the video frame itself.
Visual material needs to be described for blind and partially sighted people. This includes any writing presented in an image format, such as a picture of a manuscript or a newspaper cutting.
Providing alternative content can take time and the best person to do it is the author of the material. They know what the intended learning outcome is and can judge what essential information needs to be conveyed.
Alternative content can be provided in various ways; for example in web-based materials a short description can be added as an ‘ALT’ tag in the code for an image on a web page. Most screen readers will read this out automatically. A longer description could be put on a separate page and linked from the figure caption. A transcript could be displayed automatically as audio is playing or links could be offered to one or the other.