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The details of description: Techniques, tips, and tangents on alternative text - Tech Forum 2023

This presentation explores critical aspects of image descriptions and alt text, including a discussion of the collaborative effort needed to create inclusive digital content. Explore the roles of authors, illustrators, publishers, and AI in this process (hint — AI is not ready for this work!), while staying informed about how to create content that is as accessible and inclusive as possible. Link to presentation video and transcript: https://bnctechforum.ca/sessions/the-details-of-description-techniques-tips-and-tangents-on-alternative-text/ Presented by BookNet Canada on November 17, 2023 with support from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

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The details of
description:
Techniques, tips,
and tangents on
alternative text
N O V E M B E R 1 7 , 2 0 2 3
L E A H B R O C H U
N AT I O N A L N E T W O R K
F O R E Q U I TA B L E
L I B R A RY S E RV I C E
Elements of Collaboration: Why Collaborate?
• When it comes to image description, collaboration is essential
• It is possible to miss key components
Donna frames the far left of the panel. She is seen close up in profile as she looks over her shoulder at Lori. There is a small warm
smile on her face. In the centre foreground Lori kneels with her arms down before her out of frame. She looks back at Donna with
a relaxed smile.
“You know what it’s like that time of year when you’re alone … I hung on every word … everything about him was perfect, and at
midnight … I had someone to kiss.” she pauses, “We really hit it off.”
Behind them, in the midground, is the grassy clearing. To the left, the background is the pale sky, and to the right there is the
dense forest. One lone pale figure stands in the distance amongst the trees.
• When it comes to image description, collaboration is essential
• It is possible to miss key components
• Having a second person edit draft descriptions will (usually) really improve them
Elements of Collaboration: Why Collaborate?
Old alt-text:
Full page drawing of a man, seen from the side.The figure has no skin. He is stepping with one foot,
and has one arm raised up into the air before him. He is seen standing in a field dotted with foliage
and ruins of ancient buildings. Each muscle is labeled with either a capitalized or lower-case Latin
letter, or a capitalized or lower-case Greek letter. At the top of the page is the Latinized name
Latinized name "AndreaeVesalii Bruxellensis", and just below that is the diagram title: "Secunda
5
New alt-text:
Illustration of a man as he raises an arm and holds the other out in front of him, taking a step in a field
dotted with foliage and ruins of ancient buildings.The figure has no flesh to illustrate the
musculature of the human body; the position of his limbs is also designed to show all the muscles of
the body. Each muscle is labeled with either a capitalized or lower-case Greek or Latin letter. At the
top of the page is text reads: "AndreaeVesalii Bruxellensis", and just below that: "Secunda
Musculorum Tabula"
• When it comes to image description, collaboration is essential
• It is possible to miss key components
• Having a second person edit draft descriptions will (usually) really improve them
• Image description work can be quite challenging – having a collaborator means having a
support system
• It also ensures that a broader knowledge base is available
Elements of Collaboration: Why Collaborate?

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The details of description: Techniques, tips, and tangents on alternative text - Tech Forum 2023

  • 1. The details of description: Techniques, tips, and tangents on alternative text N O V E M B E R 1 7 , 2 0 2 3 L E A H B R O C H U N AT I O N A L N E T W O R K F O R E Q U I TA B L E L I B R A RY S E RV I C E
  • 2. Elements of Collaboration: Why Collaborate? • When it comes to image description, collaboration is essential • It is possible to miss key components
  • 3. Donna frames the far left of the panel. She is seen close up in profile as she looks over her shoulder at Lori. There is a small warm smile on her face. In the centre foreground Lori kneels with her arms down before her out of frame. She looks back at Donna with a relaxed smile. “You know what it’s like that time of year when you’re alone … I hung on every word … everything about him was perfect, and at midnight … I had someone to kiss.” she pauses, “We really hit it off.” Behind them, in the midground, is the grassy clearing. To the left, the background is the pale sky, and to the right there is the dense forest. One lone pale figure stands in the distance amongst the trees.
  • 4. • When it comes to image description, collaboration is essential • It is possible to miss key components • Having a second person edit draft descriptions will (usually) really improve them Elements of Collaboration: Why Collaborate?
  • 5. Old alt-text: Full page drawing of a man, seen from the side.The figure has no skin. He is stepping with one foot, and has one arm raised up into the air before him. He is seen standing in a field dotted with foliage and ruins of ancient buildings. Each muscle is labeled with either a capitalized or lower-case Latin letter, or a capitalized or lower-case Greek letter. At the top of the page is the Latinized name Latinized name "AndreaeVesalii Bruxellensis", and just below that is the diagram title: "Secunda 5 New alt-text: Illustration of a man as he raises an arm and holds the other out in front of him, taking a step in a field dotted with foliage and ruins of ancient buildings.The figure has no flesh to illustrate the musculature of the human body; the position of his limbs is also designed to show all the muscles of the body. Each muscle is labeled with either a capitalized or lower-case Greek or Latin letter. At the top of the page is text reads: "AndreaeVesalii Bruxellensis", and just below that: "Secunda Musculorum Tabula"
  • 6. • When it comes to image description, collaboration is essential • It is possible to miss key components • Having a second person edit draft descriptions will (usually) really improve them • Image description work can be quite challenging – having a collaborator means having a support system • It also ensures that a broader knowledge base is available Elements of Collaboration: Why Collaborate?
  • 7. Image from Animalia, by Graeme Base
  • 8. • An in-house team (editors, copy-editors, interns, production managers, whoever has the time and ability…) • Authors and/or illustrators (either as initial drafters, or in an editing/reviewing role) • Outsourced workers (conversion houses, subject specialists, freelancers) • Artificial intelligence? (we’ll come back to this!) • Regardless of who drafts the image descriptions, collaboration and teamwork will help make them as strong, concise, and useful as possible Elements of Collaboration: Who are your Collaborators?
  • 9. Elements of Collaboration: Building a Knowledge Base • There is great value in creating a (living) document that can be used to help standardize your image descriptions • Some image description work can fall into grey areas, and having some internal guidelines will streamline the work, whether at the creation or review stage • Guides to reference: • Literary Image Description: Best Practices Guide (APLN.ca) • Guide to Image Descriptions | Guide de description des images (AccessiblePublishing.ca) • Guide to Writing Long Descriptions | Guide des descriptions longues (AccessiblePublishing.ca) • Diagram Center: Image Description Guidelines (Benetech)
  • 10. Elements of Collaboration: Building a Knowledge Base • Webinars to check out: • Implementing Extended Descriptions in Digital Publications, Best Practices and Practical Advice • The Art and Science of Describing Images • The Art and Science of Describing Images – Part 2 • The Art and Science of Describing Images – Part 3 • Describing Images in Publications – Guidance, Best Practices and the Promise of Technology
  • 11. Elements of Collaboration: Building a Knowledge Base • What to include: • Definitions, and the terminology you use in your organization • Workflow process and considerations • Technical/logistical techniques you employ • Using the general guidelines of Image Description, work in examples from your own repertoire
  • 12. Elements of Collaboration: Building a Knowledge Base • General image description guidelines include: • Differentiating between decorative and non-decorative images • Considering the audience • Cultural sensitivity and inclusion
  • 13. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Microsoft: A dog wearing sunglasses Alt-text.ai: Local dog cool as heck. https://alttextgenerator.net/: a dog wearing sunglasses
  • 14. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Human: A humorous image designed to look like a screenshot from a news report. A shiba inu wears sunglasses, and has a bottle of wine beside him. Text on the screen reads: 19:32 (Time). Live - Breaking News: Local dog cool as heck. He drinks, he smokes, he thinks that you’re a joke. ChatGPT: The image is a humorous meme designed to look like a breaking news TV segment, featuring a Shiba Inu dog wearing sunglasses. The caption reads "LOCAL DOG IS COOL AS HECK" with a ticker below stating, "HE DRINKS, HE SMOKES, HE THINKS THAT YOU'RE A JOKE." The image is staged to present the dog as a comically exaggerated cool character, with a beer bottle also visible in the shot. This image is meant for entertainment, parodying the format of a news broadcast.
  • 15. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Microsoft: A cartoon of two men with a cow Alttext.ai: A drawing of a man and a cowboy talking to each other
  • 16. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Human: Line-drawn comic. One cowboy says to another: Which lasso did you use? A cow in front of them frowns angrily, as his head has been separated from his body. Where his head should be, there is a grey and white grid pattern. (this is a play on the lasso tool in photoshop). ChatGPT: The image is a hand-drawn cartoon featuring two cowboys standing next to each other, looking towards a cow to their right. The cow is drawn in a simplistic, sketch- like manner. One of the cowboys is speaking, as indicated by a speech bubble above him that reads, "WHICH LASSO DID YOU USE." The cow's midsection is pixelated, suggesting that something inappropriate or comical is being covered up. The overall scene appears to be light-hearted, potentially part of a joke or comic strip.
  • 17. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Microsoft: A drawing of skeletons sitting on a table Alttext.ai: A drawing of two skeletons in front of a barrel.
  • 18. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Human: A black-ink woodcut illustration. Two skeletons sit by some barrels in an alley that is overgrown with vines. One skeleton holds up a glass of wine as it gestures broadly; the other sits with a wide open mouth, seeming to laugh and listen. ChatGPT: The image is a pen and ink drawing depicting two skeletons in a domestic scene. The skeleton on the left is standing and appears to be speaking or gesturing towards the other, which is seated at a table and holding its head in a pensive or despairing pose. The scene includes a lamp post entwined with vines, a flower pot, a window looking out to a distant horizon, and a variety of objects on the table. The style is reminiscent of illustrations found in classic literature or historical anatomy textbooks, conveying a gothic or macabre aesthetic.
  • 19. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Microsoft: A group of stools with colorful macaroons Alttext.ai: Colorful macaron stools in front of a window. Alttextgenerator.com: a group of stools with colorful cushions Human: Six stools with macaron-cookie shaped seats, in a shop window. Each is a different colour: yellow, red, purple, blue, green, and lavender.
  • 20. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Microsoft: A large inflatable dragon Alttext.ai: A large inflatable dragon sitting in the grass. Human: A large, 10-12 foot tall inflatable green dragon with the Macewan logo across its front stands on the grass. A bright red, forked tongue hangs out of its mouth, and it has white and grey stripes across its torso.
  • 21. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence Alttext.ai: A view of the capitol building and greenhouses. Microsoft: A building with a dome and a white building with a blue sky ChatGPT: The image features the United States Capitol building with its distinctive white dome and the adjoining greenhouse structure of the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. The sky is clear and blue, indicating that the photo was taken on a day with good weather.
  • 22. Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence ChatGPT: The image is a panel from a black and white comic strip featuring two characters in a conversation outdoors. On the left, one character is partially shown with only the profile visible, while the other character is shown in more detail on the right, facing the viewer with a reflective expression. The character on the right appears to be a woman wearing a checkered shirt, and she is speaking, as indicated by the speech bubbles around her. The first speech bubble reads, "You know what it's like that time of year when you're alone... I hung on every word. Everything about him was perfect, and at midnight... I had someone to kiss." Another speech bubble, presumably her continuation, says, "We really hit it off." The setting appears to be a grassy area with trees in the background, suggesting a casual, outdoor scene.
  • 23. • Simple generators like alttextgenerator.com, alttext.ai, and Microsoft frequently get things wrong • ChatGPT often over-describes, includes guesses, and cannot convey humour • They can’t account for tone, mood, voice, and audience • Using an AI tool as a “collaborator” may result in more work – it really depends on the content you are working in Image Descriptions & Artificial Intelligence
  • 24. Final Thoughts • At NNELS, we are seeing more and more publishers get on board for – and continually improve upon – image description work • It’s important for so many people - StatsCan: Survey on Accessible Print Materials (SAPM) - StatsCan: Print material accessibility in Canada, 2023 (report) • in the report, they found that around 5.2 million Canadians had a difficulty with print material in 2023 – and 77.4% of these had difficulty seeing words in print • 63.1% - use large print materials • 36% are using accessible digital file formats • 12.7% of folks are using talking books or described video – that’s over 660,000 people!