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The Guardian launching audio storytelling experiment with Google

Auditorial — an experiment in storytelling that adapts to suit the reader and offers more accessibility to users with vision difficulties, co-created by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), was announced today by The Guardian and Google.

The project is intended to pose a question about how much more accessible the world’s information could be, if readers could simply tailor every website to suit their personal sensory needs and preferences. The creators hope to provoke a discussion about how the web at large might become a more inclusive place for people with disabilities, simply by offering different modes of interaction rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

The project captured key learnings from a collaboration with the blind and low vision community in the Auditorial Accessibility Notebook, to help other publishers of all shapes and sizes understand the simple tips and tricks that can open up online storytelling to millions of blind and low vision users. The learnings are shared in a hope that more people will be able to discover more content.

The first adaptable story is The Silent Spring, an episode of Guardian’s Science Weekly podcast from 2018.

The Auditorial platform uses an assortment of accessibility features and tools to tell the story, including multimodal films with video and audio speed control, high contrast, text-only mode, and scale and focus controls. Users can press play to start the story and adjust the audio, visual and written settings as they are taken through the story.

It’s a piece of storytelling that is completely customisable, to offer those with visual disabilities an experience that is as comfortable, rich and creative as any other reader.

So, someone with faded colour vision can enhance the imagery, or people with vision difficulties who have increasing hearing sensitivity, for example, can listen to the story but remove background noise so that they can focus on the narrator. Someone with photophobia, a light sensitivity, can flip the story into dark mode, and all the animations take on a darker form. Someone with motion sensitivity can flip a switch that turns all moving images into keyframes.


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