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Caroline Desrosiers Making The Web More Inclusive

The header is a headshot of a smiling Caroline, a white female in her 30s who has wavy copper-colored hair and bangs. She is wearing a dark top.

Caroline Desrosiers Making The Web More Inclusive

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Editor’s Note

3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video are shared online daily according to a quick Google search. Unfortunately the majority of this web content is inaccessible for the 250 million people around the world who are on the blind spectrum. Today’s podcast guest Caroline Desrosiers and her company Scribely is working hard to make the world more inclusive through web content accessibility.

Caroline was featured on Bold Blind Beauty early last year and she provided excellent examples to help us become more proficient at describing our web content. When you have a spare moment check out Scribely: Making Web-Based Images & Videos Accessible So All Might Enjoy.

After our conversation with Caroline, Beauty Editor, Dana Hinnant will share a Beauty Byte. Then Sylvia, Nasreen and I will each share a personal intention for 2022.

Included in this post is the link to our podcast on YouTube and just below it is the transcription for those who prefer to read. We hope you enjoy this episode!

YouTube Video

Stephanae McCoy: Happy New Year! Welcome to Season Two of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. podcast, the show that’s clearing the air for more A.I.R. (access, inclusion, and representation). I’m Stephanae McCoy and with me are my co-hosts.

Nasreen Bhutta: Nasreen Bhutta,

Sylvia Stinson-Perez: and Sylvia Stinson-Perez.

Steph: In today’s episode, we will discuss web accessibility with Caroline Desrosiers. Next up is a Beauty Byte, featuring Dana Hinnant, Beauty Expert for Bold Blind Beauty. Then each of us Nasreen, Sylvia, and I will share our intention for 2022.

Introducing Caroline Desrosiers

A headshot of a smiling Caroline, a white female in her 30s who has wavy copper-colored hair and bangs. She is wearing a dark top.

Steph: One of the definitions of access in Merriam Webster’s dictionary is freedom or ability to obtain or make use of something. On a personal level, when I think about access as it relates to disability, it goes much deeper and begins with an intention. All of us want to be valued, to be seen, and to be heard, and to accomplish this, the intention for access must begin with the heart and mind.

When each of us makes an honest effort to understand and value others’ lived experiences that are vastly different from our own, we can honor their individual needs. We can create a world of greater access by breaking barriers if we stop, listen, and learn from the lived experiences of others.

Speaking of access, we are honored to have a sit down with the Founder and CEO of Scribely, Caroline Desrosiers to help us understand the importance of Web Content Accessibility. Hi, Caroline, thank you for coming on the show.

Caroline Desrosiers: Thank you very much for having me. I’m delighted to be here.

Scribely’s Web Accessibility Services

Steph: Caroline, can you explain to our listeners the web accessibility services provided by Scribely and their importance within our culture?

Caroline: Absolutely. So Scribely is a boutique content accessibility solutions company, and we are on a mission to make the web more inclusive for everyone, one image, and video at a time. So basically, what Scribely is, is a team of writers that are experienced in crafting exceptional visual descriptions for images and videos, and we take a human-generated approach to this work. So we’re not using AI or auto-populating anything, we really are using a team of expert writers to do this.

My personal background is in book publishing, and that’s kind of where I got my start in accessibility. But since launching Scribely I’ve expanded to other industries like E-commerce, fashion and beauty, art galleries, and museums, and entertainment companies. So it kind of all started for me with alternative text or alt text, and then it expanded to audio description for video later. So that’s basically what we do; we take an exclusive focus on content accessibility in particular images and videos.

How To Make Web Content More Accessible

A hand is drawing the words "Web Content" as a graphic word diagram.

Nasreen: That’s fascinating. Caroline, can you tell me how the average blogger or small business can develop a plan to make their web content more accessible?

Caroline: That’s a great question, and my best answer is start today, actually, and that’s because developing born accessible content really starts with designing workflows from the beginning. And if you think about this, along the way, how to make your images and videos accessible, this will ultimately save you time and money. Also protect your business and establish your brand as inclusive.

So my advice would be if you don’t know anything about accessibility, just start learning today, and there are a ton of resources out there on the web, and also companies like my company, Scribely, that are focusing on specific areas and can help you along the way.

I feel like web accessibility is just part of doing business right now, and our world has gone virtual so everyone needs to be able to access the goods and services that they need online. So this is something that we all need to think about, and in terms of where to get started, the best way to think about it, in my opinion, is to look at all of your visual content that you have, across your images and videos, across your website, social media, any digital products or apps that you produce, and think about the audio experience of that content.

So for example, what we’re doing right now is a podcast, and any content could potentially work in a podcast format if the content creator thinks about that audio experience from the beginning. So my best advice would be just take a step back and think if I was not looking at my visual content, could I understand it in an alternative form?

International Press Telecommunications Council

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Sylvia: Caroline, that’s awesome. You’ve recently moderated the International Press Telecommunications Council conference. As a member of that organization, can you give us a little bit of information of who they are and what they do?

Caroline: Yes, definitely. So the International Press Telecommunications Council, or IPTC, is the global standards body for the news media, and they provide a technical foundation for the news ecosystem. So that’s kind of where they got their start. But nowadays, they are impacting more industries beyond just news, really, they are responsible for updating the metadata standards for administrative, descriptive, and copyright information about photos. So basically, that means that anyone who is using digital photos, who’s managing a database, who’s building a website that involves digital photos, actually, their work is relevant to these people.

So it expands outside of news, and we’re just talking, basically, about embedding information into image files. So that that information travels wherever the image goes on the web, and the way that you do that is you populate metadata by using software programs and providers, like for instance, Adobe, Apple, and Google, that are helping people manage their databases and photos, and this metadata can be populated within those software systems.

So I joined the IPTC, basically, to look into whether we could add accessibility fields into embedded metadata. So that alt text and extended descriptions could travel with the image files, wherever they’re going next, and hopefully, explore more efficient workflow solutions for alt text.

Nasreen: That is amazing to know, Caroline, because we are all now very much tethered to our computers and surfing the web, and looking at content all over the place, and that’s some of the frustration that we find, with images and video, that they’re not properly tagged, or alt texted from the beginning and having companies that are not doing that right off the bat, and for you all to be having those conversations in forums like this. I think this is a really good step forward to making all things more accessible, and that’s fantastic.

So during October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, IPTC made a huge announcement. Can you tell us what this means? Especially for the approximately 250 million people around the world who are on the blind spectrum? What was that message that they were sharing with everybody?

Caroline: Yeah, so up until now, accessibility has not been part of the IPTC photo metadata data standards or any metadata standards, really, there are approaches to using different fields to accomplish that end goal of embedding alt text and extended descriptions. But there weren’t any dedicated fields to this work.

So what IPTC announced in October was that they were adding two new fields to the photo metadata standard, and those are called alt text accessibility and extended description accessibility, and maybe it would help to just have some definitions of these.

So Alt Text is basically a brief textual description of the person, purpose, or meaning of an image, and it’s meant to be in place of an image, and the extended description is a more detailed textual description that continues the information from the alt text. So it’s not repeating anything in the alt text, just the description already provided, it’s meant to be kind of a continuation when the alt text does not sufficiently describe the details or the complexity of that image.

So what IPTC has done is make it possible to embed both of these fields into images, and this ultimately helps make workflows more efficient across data ecosystems, and hopefully help play a key role in reducing the surprising number of missing, inaccurate and incomplete image descriptions on the web today. So we’re hoping to solve some of the workflow challenges, and the reason that we’re exploring this is because we’re adding new images to the web every single day without an adequate solution for describing them really.

And what’s happened is that a lot of people and organizations are giving up on writing their alt text on their own, and they’re using artificial intelligence, or auto-populating techniques, where they download a plugin that grabs the title of a product and puts it into the alt text field, and that doesn’t adequately describe the image for screen reader users. So what IPTC has done is a big accessibility step forward, because this offers a way to human scale this effort of adding image descriptions to image files, and finally, create a system where we can maybe manage this in a more sustainable way.

So it’s really an exciting time where, finally, decades, after the text alternative requirement was added to WIC, had, we finally have a new approach that may help improve the quality and also the availability of image descriptions.

Tips For Making Images Accessible On Social Media

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Sylvia: Well, that is actually really exciting. But I’m going to think that for a lot of our listeners, this is like, wow, that is so technical and complicated, and what if I’m just a person who posts a lot of pictures or memes or any images on my social media, and I want my friends who are blind to be able to know what I’m doing? Can you provide a few tips for our audience?

Caroline: Absolutely. So every social media platform at this point has a dedicated field for all text. So when you load in that image, and you’re ready to post, before you post, you can actually add a description. So it takes some effort to find out where that is, for instance, in Instagram, it is a bit buried in advanced settings.

But there is a way to add alt text, and it goes back to my recommendation earlier, think about ways you can start doing this work today, and maybe it does start with your social media, where you make a New Year’s resolution where every post that I make is going to be accessible to blind and visually impaired people who are following me, and I love what Stephanae said at the beginning about intention, there is a lot of purpose behind doing something like that so that everyone can feel included.

So I think that social media is actually a great way to start because those platforms are really providing that option to add image descriptions.

Connecting With Caroline

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Steph: Thank you so much for sharing with us the work that Scribely does, the work that the IPTC does, and helping us to understand how we can get there and we can break down these barriers of inaccessibility. So Caroline, can you tell us how our listeners can get in touch with you?

Caroline: Definitely. So you can follow Scribely on Instagram, @scribelytribe, and basically, the purpose of our Instagram is to show how to write alt text. So we describe two images every week so that you can kind of learn along the way and make alt text part of your week. The more descriptions that you read, the more you’ll start to understand the process and the approach for writing it on your own.

So I would suggest following our Instagram, on LinkedIn, we do things a little bit differently, we post a series called Scribely Shorts, and we provide quick tips on how to write alt text, focusing on specific areas. For instance, how to keep it short, how to incorporate keywords, all of these guiding principles that we follow at scribely, we do share those with people so that they can learn and grow as well.

And then of course, if you want to get in contact with us about a project or talk about some of the possibilities with accessibility, please feel free to reach out directly to Scribely at hello@scribelytribe.com.

Steph: Thank you so much, Caroline,

Caroline: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to begin this new year, and I hope that we achieve accessibility greatness. I firmly believe that the 2020s are the decade that we solve these problems. So I’m excited to get to it and to work with others who are excited about that as well.

Beauty Byte Featuring Dana Hinnant

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Dana Hinnant: Happy New Year, everyone. It is going to be a great year.

Pantone color for the year is Very Peri it’s a combination of purple and blue. It’s been popping up in hair color on Instagram and you may not want to go this far with it, but how about incorporating it in your eyeshadows, eyeliners, and nail polishes? So check it out. Try it out.

Three trends that are predicted to be popular, according to Pinterest:

  1. Our number one natural hair textures. For those of us who wear our natural hair, i.e. myself, it’s going to be embraced even more, and the styles that are predicted are high space buns and high poofs.
  2. The second trend is bold hair statements. That can be bold color, bold buzz cuts with color in it; wigs, mullets…
  3. So you might want to try something new, and the next is nail art. Now nail art was trending in 2021, and it’s still going to keep going forward, and it’s just been pushed up a notch. The millennials have been rocking desert and galaxy motifs. But if you want to try this out, you don’t have to be a millennial. Just check it out on your nails or your toes.

And that is your Bold Blind Beauty Byte.

Nasreen: That was a fascinating interview with Caroline Desrosiers of Scribely, there’s so much information out there on all texting that I didn’t even know about. We all use the web all the time, we’re surfing through it looking at images. It’s difficult because they’re never described for us. They’ve never done alt text and don’t know what we’re looking at, and I just love the work that they’re doing.

Sylvia: I definitely think having a standard and building a library of images that are all text and described will eventually have tremendous benefit for anyone who’s visually impaired.

Nasreen: I love that idea, Sylvia, a library. I think that’s a great way to describe what could eventually be what they end up doing or big picture thing here for all of us.

Steph: I attended the IPTC conference, and the Smithsonian was one of the presenters, and they were talking about cataloging all of their images, and if you might imagine as a museum, as huge as it is, they have millions of pieces of content that need to be described. But when I think about it, and the work that they’re doing, it is almost like the age-old question, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We just don’t take on the whole thing. Because if you think about the whole thing, it can be a little overwhelming. But if you just do one at a time, that is doable, and eventually, you get to where we are, more accessible

Sylvia: And that’s what Caroline said to all of us. Every single individual can take that responsibility and be accountable for the images that they put out there, one image at a time, and I think all of us would so appreciate that and just be thrilled to have access

Supporting Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R.

Brand icon Abby is holding up a teal dress on a hanger in her right hand. She is wearing a stylish black off the shoulder dress, black heels with ankle straps and a white hat with a black band with a loose end waving. In her left hand is her white cane.

Steph: At Bold Blind Beauty we sell a message of empowerment, acceptance, and hope. Our mission is to improve humanity by changing the way we perceive one another. When you shop our online store, you support our mission and projects such as this podcast. Our newest line of products is a positive take on the word; BLIND (Bold Leaders Illuminating New Directions). For full product details. Please visit bold blind beauty.com.

Recap

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Nasreen: Hey, ladies, I just love Dana’s Beauty Byte, Very Peri. What do you think of that? Is that a color? 

Sylvia: Well, it combines two of my favorite colors, purple and blue. She talked about hair too, and bow hair. I’m wondering, just thinking, is this the year that I add some purple and blue to my home? Probably not. 

Nasreen: Yeah, I probably wouldn’t add it to my hair, but my nails, I can see that, and I’m just trying to figure out what you can match with very Perry. Anybody know? I mean, I know white goes with everything. But… 

Sylvia: She’s going to have to tell us that in future episodes. 

Nasreen: Absolutely. Yeah.

Sylvia: And what do you think about the hair? The bun! The bun is in! I’m just going to be honest here. If you see me in a bun. It might be because I had a bad hair day, and that’s a great way to hide my big long hair. 

Nasreen: Out of the three of us. You have the longest hair and therefore the bun is easier for you to do. I’ve got medium shoulder-length hair, so I might get away with it a little bit. But my bun probably wouldn’t be as big in poof like yours. What about you, Steph? 

Steph: I would have to buy my poof for that because I have worn wigs for many years off and on through the years. I would intersperse them with my own hair and different hairstyles. I just love playing with different looks. So for me a new bold, even blue tinge wig. Sounds very cool, and I think it’s something that I will definitely be doing in 2022. 

Sylvia: I love it. I love the purple idea, too. I have to say that purple is my favorite color, and I’m going to own it right now. Is that a natural color hair? I always dye my hair, and I have been for many years, because it’s just fun, and maybe I can find a little tinge of purple.

Well, ladies, speaking of this new year, we’ve always heard people setting new year’s resolutions, setting goals. In fact, I think we even set some goals last year. I don’t know about y’all, but I set those goals and I work hard on them till about February. Then they kind of fall off, and so this year, I happen to be in my yoga class. She always has a start with setting an intention for the class. Something like, usually for me, it’s like, I’m going to be more peaceful, more calm, more courageous, whatever, and one day just recently, I was thinking, I’m going to set an intention for 20 22 versus goals. What do y’all think about that setting an intention? 

Nasreen: I really want this, because resolutions focus on the outcome rather than the journey and intentions. On the other hand, are more focused on inspiring you to be better without applying that anything really needs to be changed. 

Intentions For 2022

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Sylvia: I like that, Nasreen. That’s nice. Wayne Dyer said. You create your thoughts, your thoughts create your intentions and Your intentions create your reality. 

Nasreen: That’s well, said.

Sylvia: Hopefully, that’s all true. So when we think about this, what are your intentions, or what is one intention that you have for this year, Steph? 

Steph: My intention for this year is to focus. One of my favorite quotes by Jackie Joyner Kersee, and I’ve said it a million times, is if “I stopped to kick every barking dog, I am not going to get to where I’m going.” And I think in advocacy, especially, it’s too easy to want to tackle every injustice but when we attempt to do this, it can make us ineffective in the long run.

When you think about over 7.8 billion people on this planet, there’s more than enough work to go around for everyone, and that’s if they desire to get into this type of work, as our population continues to grow, so will our social justice issues, and the need for more social justice. So for me, remembering my ‘why,’ and keeping the focus on my why will make my life significantly easier. 

Sylvia: That’s beautiful, and you make such a contribution. Thank you. Nasreen? What about you? 

Nasreen: Yeah, this is a great question, I had to do some deep thinking about my intention for 2022, and I decided that I would like to focus on seeking more fulfillment in my life, by developing more of a joyful abundance mindset, and setting boundaries, which sometimes I forget to do, and therefore, I find myself being neglected as a result, and I decided that reconnecting more with what I want would help me to foster better self-care and gratitude. So that’s what I’m going to focus on. Those are my intentions. 

Steph: They’re excellent.

Sylvia: Thanks. Great. So for me, I have to say that I was recently reading a book. It’s the new Amore Tolls book, The Link in my way, and I don’t know if this ever happens to you all, but a quote just stuck with me, and it’s been a good month since I’ve read the book, and the book is full of great things. But this quote just stuck with me, and I said, that must be my intention, that must need to be my intention, and the quote is, “kindness begins where necessity ends,” and there’s this expectation that we should be always kind to people and do things for others.

But true kindness actually starts where there’s no expectation or requirement that we do that. But that we’re kind, because we can be and because it’s who we are, and there’s no expectation of anything in return, no expectation of a return on investment, per se, and so my intention is to be more kind to people. Not only those I love because I think the hardest group to be kind to is those who are around you.

But to be more kind to have more acts of kindness, to just do things that bring joy to others, because at the end of the day, that also brings us great joy, and so I have a lot of work to do. But I think it’s a good intention for me. 

Nasreen: Yeah, that’s excellent. I like that. I like some of the things you said there.

Steph: So for 2022 Our intention for Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. is to focus on access, and I think this first episode of season two has done just that, and we will continue to do that throughout the year. 

Nasreen: Thank you for listening to this episode of Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. Please subscribe and if you enjoy the show, please recommend this to your friends and family. Thanks for listening.

Caroline Desrosiers Bio

Caroline Desrosiers is the Founder & CEO of Scribely, a company on a mission to make images and videos more accessible to blind and visually-impaired people and more discoverable to search engines. Scribely’s team of expert writers specialize in writing alt text for images and audio description for videos, helping digital media providers create born-accessible visual content for a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable world.

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