Thank you for joining me for this review video of

Demystifying Alt Text: Painting a Picture with Words.

My name is Amy Netzel and I serve as an instructional designer and

web accessibility specialist at Durham Technical Community College.

I have been with the North Carolina Community

College System since 2013.

Back then, there were only a few of us that served

in accessibility roles at some of the colleges.

It has been a pleasure to watch the accessibility discussion

permeate throughout the system.

I've seen it go from general awareness to thoughtful discussion

of how to handle some of the nuances that pop up.

Alternative text is one of those nuances that participants

in last fall's NC3ADL accessibility workshop identified as something they wanted

to learn more about, so this presentation came to be as a result of that feedback.

By the end of this presentation, it's my hope that you'll be able to

describe the difference between alternative text and

long description, and a major take away will be building your awareness

of strategies for visual description.

We’ll talk about how to utilize the context of an image to inform the

image’s text replacement, and in this presentation we're going

to focus on STEM images as well as maps and artwork.

So why is alternative text needed?

There's actually a couple of reasons.

One is for a more practical reason, but there’s also an academic reason.

But first, let's chat about the primary beneficiaries.

So the primary beneficiaries are primarily the folks whom have

visual impairments.

These impairments might be severe enough that require them

to use adaptive technology such as a refreshable braille device or a

screen reader.

A screen reader is an application that a

visually impaired person can download and install on the computer.

It will allow them to do all sorts of functions on the computer similar

to what someone without an impairment can do,

such as surfing the internet, reading and creating documents,

as well as downloading documents and interacting with other pieces of software.

So when a person using these types of assistive technology arrive

at an image with alternative text, these users benefit because the

alt text for images can be read aloud or rendered as Braille.

People who use browse the internet speech-enabled browsers...

People who browse the internet with speech-enabled browsers are also

able to hear the text alternative for the images.

There are also secondary beneficiaries.

For students, providing alternative text and longer descriptions exposes them

to what the instructor deems is the important information to glean

from an image.

Mobile web users also benefit because the option that allows them

to load images on their cell phones or tablets can be turned off,

which is useful when you’re away from Wi-Fi, and you don't want to use up

all of your data.

This exposes the image's alternative text, letting you know what's in the image

without actually loading it.

Also, providing alternative text can improve search engine optimization

by becoming indexable by search engines.

Though this may be less of a concern in an online course but

more so for those who manage websites.

So, let's talk a little bit about the guidelines the

community college system is following.

They're called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and

they were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium —

also called the W3C.

We’ll abbreviate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to

WCAG [prounounced "whikag'] W-C-A-G, and in looking at the very first one –

which is Guideline 1.1 – it states that one should provide

text alternatives for any non-text content, so that it can be changed

into other forms people need, such as large print, Braille,

speech, symbols or simpler language.

If your college is exploring Universal Design for Learning,

or UDL, which is an educational framework based on research in the

learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience--

then the second UDL guideline,

which asks instructors to provide multiple means of representation,

also highlights the importance of using alternative text.

It actually says to offer alternatives for visual information.

Universal Design for Learning guides development of flexible learning

environments that can accommodate individual learning differences,

so if the majority of students can get their information

from text you want to be able to provide that even when images

are available.

So, let's unpack these guidelines to really get into what they're saying.

If I were to read this text representation or

this equivalent of an image,

I want you to imagine for just a second what comes to mind.

So this is just a text representation.

Here we go:

An artist’s mannequin posed holding a paintbrush upward toward the sky.

I’ll read that one more time.

I want you to try to imagine the image:

An artist’s mannequin posed holding a paintbrush upward toward the sky.

What comes to mind?

I'm going to show the non-text content,

the visual information, next.

Is this similar to what you imagined?

This is the gist of what we're talking about; replacing images with alternative text or

a text representation.

Let's see what this experience is like for someone who

uses screen reading technology.

It’s important to note that there's a couple of limitations that

happen because the person using a screen reader is only exposed

to the text that the person who authored the content provided.

It ends up being a linear experience for the screen reader user,

in other words, a screen reader application reads an alternative text

from the first word to the last word.

Since a screen reader does not interpret images, the person using the

software is unable to scan the image and kind of see what might be the

important content that's popping out at them, they're limited by what the

content author has provided.

YouTube user Peter Brumby has demonstrated what one screen reader

sounds like when it comes across an image that does NOT have

alternative text and what it sounds like when an image does have alternative text.

In this video, he is using ChromeVox, which is a screen reader for the

Chrome web browser, and it sounds very mechanical and

also a little fast, but that's okay because people who use the software

on a daily basis are used to listening to it

speaking fairly quickly.

So let's listen to what it sounds like without an alternative text

for the image and what it sounds like with the alternative text.


[CHROMEVOX VOICE SYNTHESIZER] Image with no alt attribute. Heading two.

Example 123 image.


Image with alt text. Heading 2. A small dog running across a grassy field.

Mouth open ready to catch a tennis ball.

[AMY] Okay, so we can hear how linear the

experience is and that the person listening would be limited to

what the author provides, so it's important that valuable information

from the image is relayed through the alternative text.

So what kind of images are there?

The W3C categorizes images into one of seven groups.

We're going to talk about the first four during the presentation,

but I'll share all seven with you.

The first four categories recognized are decorative images, informative images,

images containing text, and complex images.

Let's talk about each of these.

Decorative images provide visual decoration on a page or slide.

They don't provide additional content or knowledge.

Informative images graphically represent concepts and information and

are typically pictures, photos, and illustrations.

Many academic images fall under informative images.

Images containing text are actually images that have text overlaid

on top of them and baked in.

I mentioned earlier that a screen reader is unable to interpret an

image, so it would not be able to access the text.

When composing the alternative text, it’ll be important to provide the image’s

text as part of the alternative text.

The fourth category of images is complex images, and these

would be pictures that convey data or detailed information.

Examples would be graphs or diagrams.

The other three categories of images that the W3C recognizes are

functional images, which are, basically, clickable images that

work like hyperlinks.

This could be a logo that when you click on it,

takes you back to the homepage of a website.

The second is groups of images.

An example of this can be seen in Amazon when a seller uses the

5-star rating system.

That group of five stars is treated as a group of images;

they're each separate stars, but they're treated as a group.

So, there’s a special way to provide the text representation

for groups of images like that.

And finally, there's image maps, which is basically an image that

has at least one clickable spot on it.

An example of an image map could be a clickable organizational chart.

So how do we provide alternative text?

The first step--and this is suggested by the National Center for Accessible Media--

is to consult with--or be--a subject matter expert.

At a college, this would be your faculty members.

The reason for this is because subject matter experts offer the

breadth of knowledge needed to most accurately describe academic imagery,

especially informative images and complex diagrams.

When talking with the subject matter expert, there's a couple of questions that

you can ask early on in the process.

Such as: Why is the image there?

And if there was no description for the image, what will the learner miss?

These two questions help the faculty member focus on, one,

the reason why this image was included in the content.

Was there a concept or point they're making with it?

These questions also help the faculty member organize their

thoughts in such a way that will help them describe the

intended content in the image.

There’s an important distinction to make before I go on.

The strategies that are demonstrated in this presentation are

intended for eLearning Specialists or Instructional Designers to use as

they talk with faculty members to help guide them in composing their

alternative text and longer descriptions.

People in the eLearning field have their own subject-matter knowledge that

they are familiar with and that they research,

but they are not expected to provide the depth of knowledge needed to

most accurately and thoroughly describe, say, an image of a chemical compound or

an engineering illustration.

They form a partnership with faculty members in order to

create the best long description possible, and these are strategies that

help make the process a little easier.

So, let's start with the basics.

First? Write well.

Consider grammar, vocabulary, clarity, and brevity of writing.

It may take people with visual or print disabilities more time to

read books and articles than people without visual or print disabilities,

and the process should not be further slowed down by

unnecessarily long image descriptions.

Many images may be rich in visual details but light on important information,

so if the gist of an image can be understood in a glance,

then the description should be just as brief.

Likewise, if the information in an image is included in the

main text body of the document and is therefore accessible,

then the image description should not repeat the information.

When an image does contain important information, the description should

provide access to the information in as few words as possible.

It's important to monitor the learner’s cognitive load.

In other words, how much information they're being asked to

take in at once.

Monitor the length of the description, vocabulary, and the sentence structure

to minimize the student’s cognitive load.

Review the context of the image.

Take care to differentiate between content and context.

American painter Keith Nolan said, “For me, context is the key --

from that comes the understanding of everything.”

See if you can pull the content of the painting on this slide from the

context of the painting in the following description:

This painting is called Cycle, and it is a part of Kenneth Noland’s most

famous and recognizable series, his Concentric Circle series.

He began experimenting with this idea in 1958 and in 1960,

he painted Cycle.

At the time, he was concentrating on vibrant, energetic color,

using a greater array of highly-keyed hues and

removing the vestiges of brushwork.

Rather than base his work on existing objects,

Noland based his work on experience.

He left the six foot canvas nearly empty and relatively free of color, except for one

vibrant spot of orange that catches the eye in the middle of the circles.

The center served as the anchor for each of his paintings in this series.

His paintings range in mood and emotion, size and color.

Though we do not know Noland’s mood nor emotion while he painted,

his paintings nonetheless, elicit a visceral response from the viewer.

This description intertwined the content of the painting with context.

It provides a bridge in understanding Nolan’s motivations.

When describing academic images, it's important to think about the context.

Why is the image provided?

The next step is to perform a visual review.

This is to ensure clarity and effectiveness.

If the reader needs to listen to a description several times because it is

poorly written or is presented in a confusing manner, then the

overall goal has not been achieved.

The best way to test the clarity of your descriptions is to read them

to someone who has not seen the image and ask for feedback.

So let's talk about the strategies then, for providing a text alternative or

a text representation of an image.

We'll start with decorative images.

When determining the alternative text for an image, you can deduce whether or

not it's a decorative image by asking a question:

Without the image, will the content stand on its own?

If so, it's a decorative image.

Here's an example of a decorative image that might be provided on the title slide

of a presentation on mosaics for an art class.

If I remove the image, the information on the title slide won't

degrade, so the image is decorative.

Here's another example.

I have a slide that displays some of Benjamin Franklin's inventions:

bifocals, Franklin stove, odometer, and next to the list,

there’s an image of Benjamin Franklin.

If I remove the image of Mr. Franklin, does the content stand on its own?

It does! So this is a decorative image.

So what do we write as the alternative text for a decorative image?

Well, we actually address it two different ways depending upon the

authoring tool that we're using.

For example, if you’re addressing an image in Microsoft Office’s Word or

PowerPoint -- and possibly in your learning management system--

you’ll want to use a few words to replace the image and

convey the essential information that's presented, or basically answer the

question: “What is this image of?”

On the other hand, if you’re using a decorative image

on a website, you'll want to cause the image to basically be invisible to a

screen reader – so that it will skip right over the image.

This is identified as a best practice on the web and

surveys indicate screen reader users do appreciate it.

The way that you would do that is to use null in the code for the image.

That looks like alt equals quote quote.

The purpose of this, again, causes a screen reader to ignore or skip over the image.

I’ve actually seen folks try to use this concept in Word and PowerPoint,

and the difference is authoring on the web versus authoring

in a content authoring tool.

So, I've seen some folks type the word null or they might type the

quotation marks as the alt text.

This ends up not making sense to the screen reader user because

instead of skipping over the image,

it will access the image’s alternative text and

the user will hear “null” or “quote quote,”

and it won’t make much sense.

So, in order to remedy that, provide a few words if you're authoring

in Microsoft Office, and if you’re working on a website, you can use null.

Though decorative images are nice, we won’t spend much more time on them.

They're fairly straightforward, so let’s put them in the rear view mirror,

and move on to more academic or informative images.

For purposes of this training, we’re going to categorize STEM images

into three main categories: graphs, charts, and diagrams.

Graphs can include, but are not limited to line graphs.

Charts can include bar charts, pie charts, and flowcharts.

Diagrams can include Venn diagrams, standard diagrams and illustrations,

such as a labelled graphic and complex diagrams, that might include

multiple cycles or comparisons, such as this graphic that compares the

bill shape of difference species of finches with their food sources.

The National Center for Accessible Media highlights four strategies for describing

STEM images: Linear description, List description, use a Table, or

Drill Down description.

A linear description applies to many STEM illustrations and

is akin to a more traditional description.

It involves choosing a starting point, and then moving from Point A to Point B,

to Point C and beyond, in a sequential and logical narrative.

A linear description is intended to be brief and specific.

OK, let’s take a look at an example of an illustration that would be

best described with a linear description.

A short description's been provided above the image and though it’s not

as clear as it should be here, in this example, the description is intended

to be “on the screen” so to speak.

In other words, it hasn’t been baked onto the image, so it's available

to the screen reader and does not need to be included

in the alternative text.

The short description says: “The diagram below shows the

early embryos of a fish, a reptile, and a bird.

The embryos of these organisms are similar in structure and appearance.”

So, assuming we’ve secured a Subject Matter Expert to provide the

description, the first step is to organize the description.

Would it make sense to describe this illustration from top to bottom or left to right?

We’ll pretend the subject matter expert intends for students to learn about the

similarities and differences among the embryos.

This image compares the embryos, so it makes sense to focus on each

of the embryos from left to right and then point out the arrows.

So we’ll start by breaking the diagram into pieces,

starting with the embryo on the left, and then we’ll move to the embryo

in the middle, contrasting it with the embryo on the left, and then we’ll focus

on the embryo on the right, contrasting it with the one

in the middle.

Finally, we’ll mention that there are arrows pointing to the same feature

on all of the embryos.

We’ll begin the description by orienting to the image.

Note that all three embryo illustrations are shown in side view.

The fish embryo is long, narrow and straight.

Its head is small, round, and contains gill arches.

A large flap extends to the left, from just below the head to the

middle of the embryo.

A segmented bony structure runs the length of the embryo on the right.

The reptile embryo is much longer and fatter than the fish embryo,

but is curled into a fetal position.

Its head is bent forward and is twice as large as that of the fish embryo.

The reptile embryo has twice as many gill arches as the fish embryo,

but the flap on the left side is only half as long.

A segmented bony structure runs the length of the embryo on the right.

The bird embryo is curved more than the fish embryo, but not as long or

as curved as the reptile embryo.

The head of the bird embryo is almost as large as the reptile embryo,

but has fewer gill arches.

A flap the same size as that of the reptile embryo extends to the left.

A segmented bony structure runs the length of the embryo on the right.

Arrows point to the gill arches of all three embryos.

Okay, so we’ve given a long description of the embryos, but we still need

to provide an alternative text for the image, itself.

In this case, since we have a longer description for the student,

we’ll use the alternative text as a means to communicate to the

student where to find the longer description.

We’ll pretend we’ve used Microsoft Word and

wrote the longer description below the image.

So, the alternative text would say something like:

“Early fish, reptile, and bird embryos. Longer description provided below image.”

Let’s take a look at another example!

In this instance, we have a math graphic, and a caption has been

provided to introduce the image.

It hasn’t been baked on to this image, so a screen reader user can access it.

It says: Greg is using a mirror to find the height of a flagpole.

He places the mirror on the ground at a measured distance from the flagpole,

then moves back away from the mirror until he can see the

top of the flagpole in the mirror.

The diagram shows this method.”

In this instance, we’ll focus on what is not included in the caption,

in other words, the points and lines.

We’ll use short sentences that are focused on the data.

As we did earlier, we’ll organize the description by deciding if we’ll describe

from top to bottom or left to right.

I think from left to right will work for this one.

Then we’ll break the diagram into pieces to describe it:

Start with Greg.

Greg's feet are at point G.

The mirror is 8 feet to his right at point M.

The base of the flag pole is 24 feet to the right of point M and

labeled point F.

The distance from point G, Greg's feet, to his eye is 5 feet.

This is the vertical leg of a right triangle.

The hypotenuse connects Greg's eye to point M, the mirror on the ground.

A similar triangle is formed from point M,

the mirror, to point F, the base of the flag pole.

The distance from point M to point F is 24 feet.

The height of the flag pole is labeled H.

This is the vertical leg of the second right triangle.

The hypotenuse connects the top of the flagpole to point M,

the mirror on the ground.

And we always want to remember the alternative text.

In this case, since a caption was available, we’ll just give an indication

of which category the image falls under and where to find the longer description.

Again, we’ll pretend we’re in Word, so the alternative text will say

something like, “Diagram. See longer description below image.”

The next strategy is the List Description.

This strategy is helpful for describing processes,

flow charts, diagrams, and illustrated chemical reactions.

It’s okay to use nested lists, if needed, and these types

of images may also benefit from a tactile diagram in addition

to descriptions.

Tactile diagrams might be a possibility through Disability Services.

Here’s an example of a process, specifically, it’s the lifecycle

of the deer tick as it depends on the white-footed mouse.

I won’t read all of the steps involved, but to create this list, you would

choose a starting point on the cycle, in this case, the white-footed mouse

ingests sporozoites, and then moving clockwise around the cycle, each step

is described.

The alternative text for the image itself will let the

student know where to find the longer description.

In this case, the alternative text might say, “Parasitic lifecycle of the deer tick

as it depends on the white-footed mouse.

Longer description provided below graphic.”

But if the longer description were provided in PowerPoint,

you might say something like, “Longer description provided in Notes area.”

If the image were embedded directly in the LMS, you might say something like

“longer description below” or if you included it in a separate document,

you might say, “Link to longer description provided below.”

In each instance, you point out where to find the longer description.

Let’s move on to the Table Description Strategy.

What this references is creating a data table.

This strategy is a good option for images of tables, pie charts,

line graphs, and bar charts.

In order to use this strategy, you’d begin with a brief summary or

an overview of the graph or chart before providing the table.

Then when creating the data table, you’d want to follow accessibility

guidelines for tables, which means including a caption or

title for the table, including column headers and row headers,

if needed, as well as avoiding merged and blank cells.

Okay, let’s start with that description.

We’ll start high level and then move into some specifics.

First we’ll identify the type of graph and it’s title:

The line graph is entitled Foreign Trade of Country X,

1968 through 1980, in United States dollars.

There are two lines on the graph, a dashed line labeled Exports and

a solid line labeled Imports.

The vertical axis is labeled Billions of Dollars,

beginning with zero to eighteen, in increments of 2.

Note -- one billion equals a one followed by 9 zeros.

The horizontal axis is labeled Year and lists all the

years from 1968 through 1980.

The Exports line begins in 1968 at 3 billion dollars, rises steeply,

then drops, then shoots up to 15.5 billion, then trails off to 10 billion in 1980.

The Imports line begins in 1968 at 2 billion and rises steadily

to 8.75 billion in 1980, except for 2 minor dips.

Okay, now we’ll say a few words to introduce the data table:

The data is provided in the following table.

Figures are in billions of dollars.

All data are approximate.

Then we’ll display the data table.

It contains three columns, one each for Year, Imports,

and Exports.

The final strategy is called Drill Down.

It is a method of describing complex diagrams.

Like the table strategy, you’ll provide a brief summary

of the image, but then it will be followed by either an

extended description or specific data or both.

Drill down combines strategies and by starting with a high level summary and

then drilling down further and further into the image,

you allow the reader to make the choice of either continuing

to read or stopping before the next section of description.

So let’s start with a brief summary.

In this case, this is a basic illustration with an embedded graph.

Then we’ll move on to an extended description.

A drawing shows two lizards in a confined space.

One lizard stands in a shadow, the other stands beneath a heat lamp.

We’ll be careful to avoid extraneous information.

In this case, we won’t need to say something like, one lizard is

perched on a rock near a cactus.

There are six lamps on a beam.

For a visual learner, this type of information would also

be extraneous.

When considering an illustration with an embedded graph,

taking the context of the image into consideration,

ask yourself if the graph can be sufficiently summarized

in a sentence or two or is it necessary to provide

all of the data?

Does the graph provide specific data or is it more of an illustration?

If specific data is provided, and if the faculty member feels

students need to be able to access the data, then provide a data table

for the graph’s information.

In this instance, there is specific data that needs

to be referenced, so we’ll give a brief summary or overview of the chart:

Above the lizards is a multiple line graph.

The horizontal X axis is labeled time days.

The vertical Y axis is labeled percent survived.

Note, in the graph there are numbers in parentheses that are

not explained in the caption nor the surrounding text.

They should not be ignored in the description.

Include them but do not guess at or assume their meaning.

In this example, they’ll be added to the data table.

Okay, we’ll continue with our summary of the chart:

In the graph, there are five separate lines labeled

by temperature ranging from 34⁰C to 42⁰C and

followed by another number in parenthesis.

And now we’ll introduce the data table, just as we did earlier

with the table strategy:

The graph is represented by the following table.

All data are approximate.

Then, just like we did for the Table Strategy,

we display the graph’s data table.

To address the alternative text, we’ll say something like

two lizards in a confined space with an embedded graph.

I’ve created a table to help us determine which graph to use

in which situation.

Our four strategies run across the top:

Table, Linear, List, and Drill Down.

And we’ll populate the next row of the table

with the different types of images.

As a quick review, a table should be used

to describe bar and pie charts, line graphs, standard illustrations that

have an embedded graph, and complex diagrams.

The linear strategy should be used to describe Venn diagrams,

standard illustrations, and comparison illustrations.

The list strategy should be used to describe flow charts or

other graphics that show a process.

And the drill down strategy should be used for standard illustrations that

have an embedded graph.

Notice that standard illustrations that have an embedded graph appear

under Table and Drill Down because it takes two strategies

to thoroughly describe those types of images; though, the strategy used

really depends on the what the embedded content is.

For example, in the lizard illustration, if the embedded content were a

life cycle instead of a line graph, then a list description of the process

would be appropriate, rather than a table.

I hope that makes sense!

So, let’s talk a bit about Maps and Art.

So, maps come in a few different flavors,

depending on their context.

When we say map, we might be referencing anything

from an atlas, to a climatic map, to a physical map, to a topographical map,

to a street map, to a campus map.

For purposes of this training, we’ll just touch on a couple of maps.

Let’s take a closer look at this map of China.

It’s title says Administrative Divisions of China.

Taking what we’ve learned, we could classify this map as

a diagram or illustration.

We’d ask the faculty member to tell us about how the map

will be used.

What will be its purpose in the lesson?

Will the faculty member use it to show the location

of each of the Administrative Divisions?

Will it be used to compare the sizes of the Administrative Divisions?

Or maybe it’ll be used to just identify the name of the capital

for each division.

It’s important to identify the purpose and set the context

because possible strategies to describe it might be to use a

table, provide a linear description, or drill-down.

We’ll say the faculty member intends to use the map to categorize and

name the provinces that fall under each division,

so in this case, a data table will suffice!

We’ll take a look at a second type of map, the campus map.

There’s still a lot of research going on in the area of making maps accessible.

In order to be considered accessible, a text-only option would need

to be available.

It would need to provide all of the same benefits

to a sight-impaired student that a non-sight impaired student

would receive.

How that will look is still working itself out, but one company,

Campus Bird, has looked into one method.

They’ve created a really nice visual piece.

Students can zoom in, look at three-dimensional versions

of the buildings, see 360 renderings

of the inside of buildings, and have a sense of what the

campus really looks like.

They’ve approached accessibility by creating another set of webpages that

contain a text-only directory of the campus buildings.

We’ll click the Text-only link to load it, and it’s just a

simple set of links.

The hope is through these links, vision-impaired students

will be able to locate the information they need such as the

address of a particular building.

For example, we’ll click Administrative Offices,

then Bekkering Admissions Office, and then More Information.

I’ve found the building’s address.

But the question remains of whether or not this would be

easy for a student.

Research will need to continue to determine ways

in which text-only maps will serve students.

When I was asked to review this map, a suggestion I had was

to bring together a focus group of students – those with

sight impairments – and ask them how they would like

to have campus information provided to them.

Would it be best to start with a central location on campus and

provide relative directions to buildings from that spot?

I don’t have the answers, yet, but I’m keeping an

eye on the research!

Descriptions for art on the other hand, have been researched.

One of the major worries that art faculty members have is

how to ensure the essence of a piece of art work is

not given away.

Well, it’s important to differentiate between the ways in which a

piece of art work can be described, as well as acknowledge the

difference between providing a description of the forms in a

piece of art work and giving an opinion based

on those forms.

So, a description of the scene here might include a

description of the bridge, and then of the couple dressed

in black walking toward the viewer, followed by a description of the man

in white leaning against the bridge’s railing, and perhaps the

location of the dog in the foreground.

After the forms are described, then a formal analysis

for the forms described may be made as well as an interpretation,

or a statement of what the work means or the ideas it expresses.

Why is that man leaning on the railing? What are his thoughts?

To whom does the dog belong?

Does the painting make a statement about the artist or the

era in which it represents?

To provide you with a couple of additional resources,

the Museum of Modern Art provides a gallery of

described pieces and Art Beyond Sight’s Guidelines

for Verbal Description provide a great step-by-step process

for how to move through a piece to create a visual description.

To give you an example of what a visual description of a piece of art work

sounds like, I’d like for you to listen to this description

of Yves Tanguy’s From Green to White

to see if you can determine which of these three pieces

are being described.

[male voiceover] From Green to White is an

oil painting made by the Surrealist artist, Yves Tanguy, in 1954.

A vertical composition of about 39 x 32 inches, the picture describes

an imaginary place using tiny, barely visible brushstrokes,

so that the surface of the painting is almost perfectly smooth.

What appears to be a strange city, naturalistically shaded

to suggest space, fills the bottom fifth of the composition.

The rest of From Green to White looks like sky.

The lower part of this section contains dark, wavy, horizontal bands,

interspersed with streaks of red, pink, green, and blue.

Above that is an area of white, tinged slightly blue.

Streaks of bright white within it give the impression of being shimmers of light,

or reflections from a block of partly melted ice.

These streaks fade out about halfway up the picture,

leaving what appears to be a blue sky with a few wispy

white clouds in it.

The strange city at the bottom of the composition consists

of many rounded shapes that suggest oddly proportioned

structures made out of grey rock.

The simplest are cut-off cylinders.

One at the left edge of the picture is the tallest element.

A flat low form in the middle, which extends across nearly a

third of the width of the picture, has a blue roof

with what look like strange waves and a single orange oval on it.

These are the only things that are not some kind of grey color.

To the left of this structure is a tower with grey-green vertical tubes

along its sides.

Window-like openings go around it.

To the right is the largest structure of them all,

like a ziggurat made of three circular flat-topped tiers.

Between it and the blue roofed form are 8-10 tall, dark, flat spires.

A thin grey cylinder rises along the right edge of the composition.

The title, From Green to White, gives no hint of what Tanguy

meant to represent in this painting.

The picture itself also provides no clues.

The shapes and forms that are so carefully described do not

suggest an interpretation that makes sense of what we see.

Therefore, the work remains a mystery, a precisely detailed view

of an imaginary world we can never know.

[AMY] Which piece was described?

Did you select this one?

Hopefully you enjoyed listening to the description.

A great visual description helps a visually impaired student visualize the

piece, but non-disabled students may enjoy listening, as well.

So, as we come to the end of this presentation,

I’ll leave you with a few other visual scenarios to consider.

There’s still many more images that faculty might use in their courses.

Which strategies might you use to describe other STEM images,

such as scatter plots or complex tables?

What about art concepts?

Or images in assessments?

The National Center for Accessible Media offers some guidance

on how to describe images appearing in assessments.

And up until this point, we’ve been very objective

in our descriptions, but is it ever appropriate

to assign meaning to an image through its alt text or

long description?

For example, how would you approach editorial cartoons, comics,

or photojournalism images?

Just food for thought!

Some other scenarios you might run into or be asked to advise on

are publisher ancillaries.

Publishers may send faculty PowerPoint presentations that

have lots of images, but no alternative text.

Advise faculty to call the publisher to address the

images within a reasonable timeframe.

Be aware that as one builds content on a PowerPoint slide,

the content becomes layered.

When adding things like arrows, call outs, text boxes, and other

options, a screen reader user can quickly become disoriented.

The screen reader accesses all of the content on the screen and

ends up sounding disjointed and disoriented as it references

all of the layers individually.

To avoid this, my advice is to go ahead and build the image in PowerPoint,

but then take a screen shot or screen capture of it and save the image.

Taking a screen shot consolidates all of the pieces or layers

into one image, and then replace the old slide with a new one that

contains the new screen capture.

Don’t forget the image’s alternative text!

And long description, if needed!

I touched on this a little earlier, but you might receive inquiries

regarding where to place the long description for more complex images.

Ultimately, we want to make a long description available

to all students, so in Word, the best place to put it is below the

image it describes.

In the image’s Description field, as alternative text,

you’ll let the screen reader user know where to find the description.

In PowerPoint, type an alternative text in the image’s Description field that

informs the user to look at the Slide’s Notes area

for a longer description of the image.

In your Learning Management System, you’ll usually have space

to provide an alternative text in an image’s description field,

but for a longer description, you can approach it

in a couple of ways.

First, you can post the longer description below the image, similar to how you’d

approach it in Word, or you can type the long description in a word processor,

such as Notepad or Word, and upload the file so that

you can provide a link to it under the image.

This second option may save you some screen real estate,

but as part of course maintenance, it’ll be important to periodically check

to see that the links to all of the long descriptions

are continuing to work.

Earlier, I mentioned maps as an area that is undergoing research.

Other areas that are being addressed are tactile options for visual content,

such as maps, graphs, charts, etc., and the application of auditory cues

to help give vision-impaired students a sense of the shape of a graph.

In the example image here, the sound might indicate that this is a

bell curve by starting as a low tone and then rising to a

higher tone to indicate the top of the bell curve followed by sinking back down

to the low tone.

Well, I appreciate you taking the time to watch this review video.

I hope you feel as though you have gained an awareness of some

strategies that will help you moving forward with accessible images

in your course or at your college.

Thank you so much for watching!