Case Study: Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in London is a leading source of information on sight loss and the issues affecting blind and partially sighted people. Practical and emotional support from RNIB helps those who are losing their sight, blind, or partially sighted face the future with confidence.
One of the programs offered by RNIB is the Talking Book Service. Talking Books are mastered in a format called DAISY, which allows someone with visual impairment to navigate through an audio book in much the same way as a sighted person would browse through a print book, such as by parts, chapters, page, and phrase.
Adding this amount of navigation, however, can require a lot of mouse clicks and keyboard commands. For example, adding the navigation controls for just one page requires up to ten actions to be performed. When you multiply that by the number of pages in a book, it quickly adds up to thousands of actions. Not only is this time-consuming, but it is also prone to user error, not to mention a potential cause of repetitive strain injury (RSI).
Oliver Johnson, Senior Audio Engineer at RNIB Talking Book Studios, knew there must be a more efficient system and started to research the possibility of automating the process. Mr. Johnson was looking for something that was powerful enough to solve the problem but not so complex that only an expert could use it.
Upon downloading MJT Net’s Macro Scheduler, Mr. Johnson was immediately struck by how easy it was to use. What surprised him was discovering all the other functions built into Macro Scheduler that he hadn’t thought of previously. Having access to image recognition, looping, database functions, and DDE commands suddenly opened up new possibilities and gave him ideas for other projects.
Mr. Johnson’s first task using Macro Scheduler was the script he wrote to add Page Navigation in DAISY to a Talking Book. In his words, “the result was quite astounding. Whereas before a member of staff would have to manually add the pages one at a time over the course of a couple of hours, now they could just say how many pages they wanted to add, click OK, and walk away. [Macro Scheduler] would do everything else.” This has saved RNIB hundreds of staff hours every month on just one task, thereby reducing costs and increasing productivity at the same time.
Another area where Macro Scheduler has proved invaluable is in facilitating the use of screen readers and screen magnifiers, which make applications and websites accessible to people with sight loss. Screen readers are not always able to detect navigational buttons on websites. While most screen readers allow you to create scripts to help make such programs a bit more accessible, they are unable to simplify or automate the process.
With the wide range of commands available within Macro Scheduler, Mr. Johnson has been able to “control programs that screen readers can’t easily work with; speed up the process so that staff with a visual impairment can work quickly, accurately and confidently; and automate processes so that staff can be freed up to work on other tasks while more mundane, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks are handled by macros.”
RNIB Talking Book Studios has seen tangible benefits since beginning to use Macro Scheduler:
Increase in Productivity
Macro Scheduler has given Talking Book Studios the ability to automate several processes that previously used hundreds of staff hours. As a result, staff members have been freed up to work on other projects. In addition, Macro Scheduler has improved the usability of programs so that staff members with a visual impairment can work more efficiently and accurately.
The office produces tens of thousands of audio files every month, which are impossible to proof by hand. Macro Scheduler performs these checks every night to ensure that the files have the correct format, sample rate, and bit rate.
Reduction in Errors
Automation of navigation controls has eliminated user error when mastering Talking Books in DAISY. This keeps production on track and on time. Not only does Macro Scheduler enable Talking Books to perform quality checks on audio files, it also generates daily reports that flag any files that may require further investigation. This alone has reduced the number of errors by 50%.
Ease of Use
When asked what he likes best about Macro Scheduler, Mr. Johnson reports: “Macro Scheduler is so simple to use. The fact that someone like me, whose only experience of writing any form of code was rudimentary HTML, can use it straight out of the box, without reading through a manual first, speaks volumes.”
Mr. Johnson says that “the level of support from Marcus and the team has been some of the best I’ve ever come across. The forum is a wealth of information, and it is very active, so if you do require some assistance, help is never far away. On more than one occasion several members have gone out of their way to help me solve problems or suggest alternative and better ways of achieving things.