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Smart Images

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Images on the Web are evolving from static JPEG and GIF files to structured formats such as SVG and dynamic images produced using the canvas element. The potential exists for descriptive information about the image to be closely coupled, and perhaps, contained within the image format itself. The concept of Smart Images is put forward as an approach where images directly contain sufficient information, exposed through a standard interface, to allow access in a user's preferred modality. Smart Images may incorporate structured text, sonification, and haptic information which can be used to describe and facilitate exploration and understanding via available technologies (e.g. screen readers, tactile embossers, devices incorporating haptic feedback, or 3D printers).


Page author(s): Markku T. Hakkinen, Educational Testing Service


Image accessibility, alternate formats, image description, sonification, haptics


Images have posed challenges to users with disabilities from the very beginning of the Web. Though the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are clear in defining that images with informational content must provide alternate text (via the alt attribute), there remains uncertainty over how to provide longer descriptions, a key requirement for accessibility of complex images and diagrams. With the growing utilization of SVG and HTML5 Canvas for creating images on the Web, the question arises whether the alt attribute or the proposed long description alternatives are adequate for providing a mechanism image description. SVG, for example, provides a framework for incorporating accessibility information [1] [2] and examination of how to incorporate WAI-ARIA in SVG is underway [3]. A W3C Community Group, Accessible Infographics, has been formed [4] and external to W3C, the DIAGRAM Center [5] is a project examining several aspects of image description, including research and standards, and is defining a content model for image descriptions. Researchers in academia and industry are exploring a variety of approaches to providing accessibility to images, ranging from sonification to virtual tactile/haptic interactions, with potential application ranging from the near term to several years out.

Smart Images, as defined in this proposal, would comprise images that are structured, may incorporate or be a component of interactive content, such as simulations, and contain within the image object, sufficient descriptive information to provide an accessible rendering in multiple modalities.

This proposed symposium will bring together researchers engaged in exploring Smart Images and accessibility and seek to identify developments likely to have impact on ongoing standardization efforts. In addition, opportunities for research and collaboration will be highlighted.


[Additional background on the subject matter]


[Specific questions that need to be addressed]


1. Accessibility Features of SVG. W3C Note 7 August 2000

2. W3C SVG 1.1 Appendix H: Accessibility Support

3. ARIA Markup

4. W3C Accessible Infographics Community Group

5. The Diagram Center Digital Image and Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials

Altmanninger, K., & Wöß, W. (2006). Dynamically generated scalable vector graphics (SVG) for barrier-free web-applications. Computers Helping People with Special Needs, 128-135.

Cayton-Hodges, G. A., Marquez, E., van Rijn, P., Keehner, M., Laitusis, C., Zapata-Rivera, D., & Hakkinen, M. T. (2012, May). Technology Enhanced Assessments in Mathematics and Beyond: Strengths, Challenges, and Future Directions. Invitational Research Symposium on Technology Enhanced Assessments, Washington, DC

Fredj, Z. B., & Duce, D. A. (2007). GraSSML: accessible smart schematic diagrams for all. Universal Access in the Information Society, 6(3), 233-247.

Gardner, J., & Bulatov, V. (2004). Directly accessible mainstream graphical information. Computers Helping People with Special Needs, 626-626.

Giudice, N. A., Palani, H. P., Brenner, E., & Kramer, K. M. (2012, October). Learning non-visual graphical information using a touch-based vibro-audio interface. In Proceedings of the 14th international ACM SIGACCESS conference on Computers and accessibility (pp. 103-110). ACM.

Goncu, C., & Marriott, K. (2011). GraVVITAS: generic multi-touch presentation of accessible graphics. Human-Computer Interaction–INTERACT 2011, 30-48.

Goncu, C., Marriott, K., & Hurst, J. (2010). Usability of accessible bar charts. Diagrammatic Representation and Inference, 167-181.

Summers, E., Langston, J., Allison, R., & Cowley, J. Using SAS/GRAPH to create visualizations that also support tactile and auditory interaction. In SAS Global Forum 2012.

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