Sharing the Stories that Images Tell

The session will report on novel insights and reproducible best practices that the Museum of Contemporary Art and her partners have learned while embarking on the improbable journey to unite inclusive design with image description. Arising from a commitment to web accessibility, the Coyote project--which aimed to describe every image on the MCA’s website--quickly grew into a pan-institutional collaboration that has demonstrated surprising benefits for museum staff (who described 1400 images in the three-month period before the launch of the MCA’s new site) and yielded rich content for all visitors to the MCA’s website, not just those with vision impairments. By recognizing image descriptions as content that should be surfaced for visitors, the MCA has been able to significantly move the needle of not just accessibility but also radical inclusion. Sighted visitors reading descriptions of images connect with the institution along axes that were previously wholly unavailable. That such radical inclusion also widens the audience to include members with disabilities is both a calculated consequence and an illustration of the emergent benefits arising from an inclusive design approach. We will cover tips and tricks for image description and lessons learned while implementing Coyote at the MCA. It is our finding that describing images for inclusive design purposes benefits the describers as much as the consumers. To this end, we will also explore the common concern that curation staff may object to such potentially interpretive approaches and relate how by successfully defining our approach as pure visual description, curation staff have become our staunchest allies in this revolutionary approach to making our institution accessible to previously ignored populations. The Coyote webapp, an open-source tool developed to support the description workflow, will be shared, along with learnings and questions from the MCN workshop on image description. Speakers Session Leader : Sina Bahram, President, Prime Access Consulting Co-Presenter : Susan Chun, Chief Content Officer, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Co-Presenter : Anna Chiaretta Lavatelli, Director of Digital Media, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago MCN 2016 Presenting Sponsor: Piction New Orleans, LA