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I'm planning on writing guidance for alt text for images of comic book pages, maybe here, maybe on Twitter, maybe elsewhere.

Then I realized merely listing the comic book and issue in the alt text might not be sufficient unless there was assistive technology for visually impaired individuals to then go and read the comic.

Do they exist? And is there a widely accepted standard? For instance, for normal screen readers, my understanding is that JAWS and NVDA are the most common ones in use.

If there is more than one, I would appreciate knowing which are the most widely used, i.e. by the most users.

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    A good place to start: it’s a list of a ton of assisting tools. spinweaveandcut.com/blind-accessible-comics Dec 24, 2021 at 19:24
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    This feels like a subjective question had a baby with a list question.
    – Valorum
    Dec 24, 2021 at 21:31
  • 4
    This might be better suited to Meta.
    – Spencer
    Dec 24, 2021 at 22:58
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    I kind of agree that as valuable as this question is for the site, it should still be on Meta (maybe pinned).
    – Adamant
    Dec 25, 2021 at 2:55
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    @AncientSwordRage - My reasoning is that this is a question that does not actually apply to science fiction and fantasy in particular, since it is about a medium that just happens to frequently be used for science fiction and fantasy in certain countries. As such, it is no more on-topic on the main site than a question about technologies for videos or e-books would be. However, Meta is loose enough to contain any meta questions of interest to fans (e.g., the obituaries), which this certainly is.
    – Adamant
    Dec 25, 2021 at 17:54

1 Answer 1

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Screen Readers

WebAIM surveyed screen reader users in early 2021, and came up with a list of the most used screen readers. The three most used were JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver. However, market shares aren't so important here, since alt text should work about the same on each.

Comic Platforms

The question then becomes what about the comics themselves? It's impossible to make a sweeping statement: each platform has to be evaluated separately. I was able to find a review of the Marvel Comics app, created by Veroniiiica, which says:

Zoom

I used the triple-tap zoom gesture to magnify the app as needed and found that it was very easy to use, especially in the small window mode. I preferred to use guided view when reading comics though- more on that in a bit.

Inverted Colors

The smart inversion tool in accessibility settings has no effect on the colors in the comics since it is considered to be a type of media, and media doesn’t get inverted. To get around this, enable Zoom and, when asked to choose a filter, choose the inverted colors section. If needed, you can zoom out all the way on magnification if it isn’t needed and just use the inverted colors.

VoiceOver/TalkBack

Unfortunately, the Marvel comics in the app are not VoiceOver or TalkBack accessible, so I can’t recommend the app for users that solely use VoiceOver or Talkback.

Because screen readers have no content they can access in the app, the only users who can use it are those who are not completely blind.

Some screen readers, such as newer versions of VoiceOver, can do OCR and try to identify the content of images. However, in my limited experience using VoiceOver, this feature is hot garbage. The text recognition works really well, but that's the only thing that does. When I tested this on a vertical scroll comic website, I was not able to get an accurate description of anything, only words like "water" or "diagram" or (in the case of plain text with a tan background) "sand" — none of which was actually there. Additionally, the fact that the alt text was missing completely meant that I heard a long string of numbers dot jay peg (the file name) before VO gave its attempt at a description, for every image. And there are (usually) a lot of images per comic (and usually cut in weird spots, including the middle of text balloons).

This does not make for an enjoyable comic experience. Also, most comics require you to have some understanding of what's happening in the images (at the very least, who's speaking), so you would be very confused if you did somehow persevere.

Image Accessibility on Stack Exchange and Elsewhere

However, when posting images of comics, I would still make it accessible. Any person using a screen reader would prefer to hear your description of the image instead of "enter image description here" or whatever-junk-file-name-you-had-dot-pee-en-gee. Even if you can't read comics by yourself, you may still be interested in knowing more about them.

It's also useful for more than just the visually impaired. For example, some wifi networks block Imgur, so only the alt text is displayed.

Additionally, as Veroniiiica says, some visually impaired users still navigate visually. That's why it's important to think about accessibility beyond alt text. For example, I avoid using <sub> and <sup> tags, so that the text isn't a struggle to read.

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