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Blind Users and Web Comics

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2002 14:52:40 -0800
Message-Id: <a05101001b862787adaf2@[10.0.1.9]>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Brief question:

What do blind users think about the idea of making web comics --
comic strips (such as Dilbert), comic books, etc. -- accessible
by adding alternative text and textual descriptions to the web
comics?

Longer background:

On another mailing list I'm on -- about comic books -- the issue
of accessibility of online comics was raised by the list moderator.

He said:

At 1:49 PM -0800 1/7/02, Max Leibman wrote:
>ALTERNATIVE TEXT: 
>IMPROVING COMICS ACCESSIBILITY
>
>Digital comics tied to text-based versions of their
>content could offer improved access to all readers.
>
>HTML, the standard mark-up language for presenting
>content online, includes a feature referred to as "ALT
>Text."  ALT text allows content providers to specify
>alternative text to be displayed when an image cannot
>be rendered properly.  Ideally, the text fulfills the
>purpose of the absent image.  I propose taking this
>idea to its fullest extent:  More than a mere
>descriptor or short name or instruction, I propose
>that digital comics should link to a full textual
>description naming all characters, locations and
>describing all pertinent displayed action, plus
>repeating all dialogue and narrative text that is
>incorporated within their panels.
>
>This improves access for blind and partially-blind
>users, whose text-reading browsers can then accurately
>describe the comic.  A blind user could understand a
>joke or story told in comics form.  Some criticize
>attempts to make visual media accessible to those who
>lack the appropriate sense to process them, but any
>medium with any value offers unique content that would
>benefit even those currently without access.
>
>Moreover, availability of this alternative text
>version of a comic offer benefits beyond disabled
>users.  Such text would be SEARCHABLE.  Readers could
>locate desired sequences in large works quickly and
>easily without browsing through dozens or hundreds of
>images.  Software that reliably interprets the wide
>range of  subjects and styles of images in digital
>comics for search functions is many years away, but
>reasonable text-based searches are available today.
>
>Max Leibman
>Springfield, Nebraska
>comicmetaphysic@yahoo.com

I applauded his suggestion as very insightful, and suggested the
LONGDESC attribute as a possible thing to look at, as well as
Jason McIntosh's ComicsML markup language proposal:
http://www.jmac.org/projects/comics_ml/

However, another reader of the list had the following to say:
At 1:57 PM -0500 1/9/02, Leading the world in amphibian hygeine! wrote:
>  > But what goes in your text version? The full script with panel
>>  breakdowns? A prose version "adapted" from the full script? A summary?
>>
>>  And, hang on, if you can do the whole thing in words, why did you
>>  bother with the pictures in the first place?
>
>I was rather wondering about this myself.  Presenting a visual medium in a
>non-visual way seems to be missing the point.  Sure you can make comics more
>accessible to the blind, but that still doesn't necessarily make them
>worthwhile for the blind.  I can't help but think that if I were blind, I
>would much rather just read a book than a narrative adaptation of a comic
>book.

I responded with (in part):
At 12:42 PM -0800 1/9/02, Kynn Bartlett wrote:
>Have you asked blind people about this, or are you just simply
>going on your own assumptions?

His reply to me:
At 5:37 PM -0500 1/9/02, Leading the world in amphibian hygeine! wrote:
>Not assumptions -- suppositions.  Hence my use of phrases like "I was
>wondering," and "doesn't necessarily make comics worthwhile," rather than
>phrases such as "I know," or "would absolutely not be worthwhile."  Clearly,
>I was leaving an opening for someone else to sway my opinion if they could
>present relavent information that I did not have.  I really wish you would
>take the time to understand what it is I'm saying in my messages before you
>start attacking them.
>
>Of course, if you HAVE asked a blind person about this, then that person's
>response would certainly be pertinent to the conversation, and I'm sure we
>would all appreciate your sharing it with us.

So, therefore, I'm curious in hearing what blind users think about
the idea of using web accessibility techniques to make web comic
strips and comic books more accessible to users with disabilities.
Would you "rather just read a book"?

If you reply, I'd like permission to repost your opinions on the
original mailing list where this started.

--Kynn

-- 
Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                 http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain            http://idyllmtn.com
Web Accessibility Expert-for-hire          http://kynn.com/resume
January Web Accessibility eCourse           http://kynn.com/+d201
Forthcoming: Teach Yourself CSS in 24 Hours
Received on Wednesday, 9 January 2002 17:55:25 GMT

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