Tina Webber is Centre Manager at Swansea’s Transcription Centre, which provides accessible learning formats for disabled students.
What is special about Swansea’s Transcription Centre? And how do you see your role?
We are the only University in Wales and one of only seven institutions in the UK with a transcription centre, making Swansea a hugely popular choice for print-disabled students and giving us great advantage over other HE institutions.
I see myself as an ambassador for Swansea University and enjoy visiting the specialist colleges for visually impaired students across the country, educating students about their rights and encouraging them to come to Swansea.
How is technology helping to support students with accessibility issues and will it ever overtake the ‘human’ element of transcription?
Advances in assistive technologies enable us to ensure the same resources are available for print-disabled students as for non-disabled students.
It used to take us about 10 weeks to record one textbook using human voice recordings. This meant a student would have to choose certain books from their reading list. Now we can obtain pdf copies of most books on a reading list and a student can access the file using screen-reading software. As long as Swansea University owns a copy of the title and a digital copy is available, the student can have as many books as they want!
The “human” element of transcription will always be needed as most assistive technology applications still struggle with more complex issues such as the description of images, tables and figures.
Each individual student will have different transcription needs depending on their eye condition and the subject they study. There is no “one size fits all” approach to transcription. Very often, transcribers have to really think about how to transcribe the original information in a meaningful way which stays true to an original document. A computer or software application can’t do that!
What does a typical day involve for you?
We feel very passionate about our roles as transcribers and our day-to-day job often involves a great deal of research and in-depth knowledge.
We could be enlarging and relabelling diagrams of the brain one day and printing vast amounts of braille the next. We learn something new every day and as a team, we all contribute specific areas of expertise which helps us learn from each other.
We know students who are visually impaired can access free resources. What else is available for students and staff who have accessibility issues?
The University has a range of accessibility tools networked and available for every student and member of staff on the unified desktop.
Additionally, access to the iView learning portal is free.
What does the future of the Transcription Centre look like?
We need to continue to showcase Swansea as a leading institution when it comes to the support of visually impaired students.
I would like to see the centre grow in line with overall student numbers and continue to educate colleagues about accessibility and best practice.