Inclusive Imagery


Images are important to modern day life. From graphs of Covid-19 numbers to what profile picture you use on LinkedIn, information about ourselves and the world around us is constantly being conveyed through images. However, most of the images online today are not accessible for blind and low vision technology users. In order for blind users to know the content of an image, it has to have a description in the form of alt text attached to the image. Research shows that creating alt text so that images are accessible is no easy task: how do you create descriptions of so many images quickly, thoroughly and accurately?

The Inclusive Imagery Project is tackling this issue by looking at what is important when representing people with disabilities so that we can have more accessible, equitable, and diverse representation in technology design contexts. The project is a collaboration with Google, who provided us with a 40-image set of illustrated user profile pictures intended for internal use by Google developers and designers. The images depicted a wide range of races and ethnicities, ages, disabilities, and other identities to prompt Googlers to consider the true diversity of their user base. Over the course of 2020 and into 2021, we talked to people with disabilities about these images through 28 interviews and focus groups to find out how to inclusively describe disability and other identities in alt text. We co-designed image descriptions that could be as inclusive as the images themselves.

In the meantime, the Inclusive Imagery Project is already looking at more ways to make alt text widely available. The next step of the project is talking to artists and writers at Google about how alt text actually gets made. If we can understand current processes for making alt text then we can find ways to make alt text creation a standard part of all images companies make.


(todo: work on the wording here, then make part of it a call-out). The inclusive images and descriptions we co-developed will be shipped on all new Google Chromebooks starting in 2022. That’s an estimated 40 million laptops that, for the first time ever, will come with accessible profile images that actually depict disability. In other words, if you're a blind or low vision person, this will be the first time that you can actually know what your user profile image looks like and can potentially choose one that has a visible disability, like you.

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