Accessible Animation

When Jenny, Hayley and I facilitated a workshop at the HPSC teaching and learning conference on 9th January, 2015, on using animation in teaching, learning and research. One of the questions from a participant was: “is animation accessible?”  In brief, the answer was “it’s complicated!”.

There are a number of issues you might want to think about.

  1.  Is the topic you are animating about suitable?

For some people, animation is still seen as a bit of a frivolous activity, animation is often used to convey light hearted information and jokes.  If you are engaging in a serious or sensitive topic, you might want to think about whether animation is the best way to do this.  On the other hand, it is possible to use animation carefully and sensitively to convey very powerful and serious messages.  If you’ve been following the #JusticeforLB campaign, a campaign calling for the NHS Trust responsible for what was found to be the preventable death of a young man with a learning disability, you may have seen this animation: which conveys powerful messages about a serious topic.

  1. Are the representations of people suitable?

The free animation software offers a limited range of images of people you might want to think about this in terms of race, gender, size and dis/ability.  The range of items that you can import is also limited. As Jenny pointed out in the session, there are no wheelchairs available in “Go Animate”.

Some people with learning disabilities may object to being represented in a cartoon-like way.  This is because of a history of a long history of the infantilisation of people with learning disabilities which self-advocacy organisations have worked hard to resist.

  1. How can I make the information within the animation accessible?

There are some general ideas about accessible information that you might want to think about:

  1. a) Think about using a sans seraph font and using 16pt or larger – avoid using all upper case.
  2. b) Allow plenty of time for the viewer to read the information on the animation.  It might help to read the slide out loud slowly and use this to set the timings on the animation.
  3. c) Use a voice over to read the text aloud.  You might also want to think about audio describing the images on the animation.
  4. d) Use pictures to support the text, the pictures should appear before the text on the left hand side rather than on the right.
  5. e) Use plain English.  Avoid technical language or jargon that a lay audience might find inaccessible.
  6. f) Provide a link to a transcript of the animation.
  7. g) Share your animation on YouTube to reach a wide audience

And finally …

We have found lots of people who have found animations an engaging and effective way to share ideas.

If you have any ideas about how to animate accessibly, we’d be really grateful if you would share them on the blog.

Katherine Runswick-Cole

For more information about presenting accessibly read:

  1. Mallett, R., Runswick-Cole, K. and Collingbourne, T. (2007) Presenting Protocols for Accessible Research Dissemination, Disability and Society, 22 (2): 205-7.

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