An Association News Commentary

Accessibility: Web Multimedia

Accessibility Editor

This month I would like to speak briefly about multimedia & the World Wide Web. Multimedia is important to access, as it may be able to easily provide solutions to problems, which presently seem to exist. Mainly, audio & video subtitles can be added to sites.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Geoff Freed, at the National Center for Accessible Media, located at WGBH in Boston. This was a very enlightening visit, & if you have any questions about multimedia, you shouldn't hesitate to contact him. Geoff showed me several players, & explained to me a little bit, how multimedia works on the web. I came away overwhelmed.

Since my visit with Geoff, I have had some time to sort out what he showed me that day. I have come up with several conclusions, which you should be interested in.

Where we really seem to be at

Although we have the technology to bring Multimedia to the Internet, we don't have all the technology yet to do it in a manner that can bring it to everybody's PC in their home. A small file combining both audio & video uses a lot of memory & storage space. Therefore, at this time, it is not practical to be utilizing this technology every day. One reason for this, in addition to the amount of memory necessary, is that most home users are utilizing telephone access that can't accommodate higher speeds, which make Multimedia file transfer easier. The solution to this problem is to use either Cable Type access, or wireless access to the internet. These technologies are quite new & not even available in many places yet. I believe they will be soon, within the next few years, though.


My limited experience has been that folks who shop on the internet don't want to spend a lot of time looking at a site. Therefore, a site which requires a lot of time to load will not get as much traffic as one which doesn't. Additionally, it is important to note that here in the U.S. we are very lucky. Telephone Access Time is very cheap. In other parts of the world, i.e. the U.K. & the Slavic countries, the same luxury is not available. Access Time is at a premium, & is very expensive. With this in mind, one should look at what I have said earlier with interest.

For more information about Multimedia, I suggest that you look at the National Center for Accessible Media. or contact Geoff Freed directly at .

Bruce Alexander is the chairman of the Web Accessibility SIG for the National Association of Webmasters. He runs a successful e-commerce Web site and is himself blind.

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