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Abstract

In my doctoral studies on information accessibility for the individual who is blind or visually impaired, I’ve been exploring the ways we can make image documents more accessible. This requires using an alternative sensory modality, and translating the document into a different format. The questions that arise when we consider this process are many, but among them are:

  • Is it the same document once we’ve converted it to an audio narrative about the work, or a 3D topographic map of an artwork, or a musical interpretation?
  • If it is not the same document, how truthful can the “trans-medial” translation be to the original work?
  • Are such efforts valid and useful?

I hope to work with users who have low vision to determine if these image re-documentations are indeed useful and what means of representation are preferred. We now convert textbooks to audio books or electronic texts readable by special equipment, but how do we treat the images in these documents? The images are part of a whole (the textbook), but are also documents in and of themselves. They may have a history apart from the work within which they’re found. They may be reproduced with permission from copyright holders. What is the best practice for describing an image when reading a text to someone who cannot see?

These issues of documentation are part the exploration now under way. I will present several examples of approaches to addressing the problem as provocation for discussion.

 

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