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I conduct blindness-related research and development projects for the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Specifically, I work on issues related to how people who are blind or who have low vision (or any print limitations) access technology and various types of media. This includes websites, digital text books, television and films, museums, amusement parks and other venues.
Since the mid-nineties, I have written video and still-image descriptions, trained people in writing high-quality descriptions, conducted research into best practices and collaborated on several sets of publically available guidelines related to description and access to media.
Currently, I provide training sessions to digital talking book providers, multimedia publishers and state organizations providing alternative materials on how best to present complex images to meet the needs of students with print disabilities.
We'll review the basics of Web accessibility as they relate to users who are blind and have low vision. We'll test drive screen readers to see what they do well and what really trips them up.
Then we'll dive into creating meaningful image descriptions for people who are blind, including complex images like charts, graphs, tables and illustrations. We'll discuss what makes good alt text, when to leave @alt empty, and when to go way beyond @alt with @longdesc and other methods. There will be lots of opportunity to write and review image descriptions.
We will discuss how people who are blind and visually impaired gather information about the visual world and how this understanding can help you create image description appropriate for the intended audience, whether it's young children, high-school students or marine biologists.
In addition, we'll talk about the ways in which good description practices can do more than satisfy an accessibility-compliance checkbox. We'll also review lots of free resources available through NCAM, WebAIM and other organizations that will be of help after the course is over.
Finally, we will discuss the future of universal design and image description in light of changes coming to DAISY, ePub and HTML 5, as well as the work of the DIAGRAM Center, which is dedicated to rapidly increasing the availability of high-quality image descriptions through improvements to authoring tools and digital readers.