Accessible Memes and Gifs: Designing a platform to encourage posters to use alt-text descriptions

Blind people and those with vision impairment rely on people adding text descriptions (known as alt text) to images and videos for them to be able to engage with the content. Without appropriate alt text, people using screen reader devices are unable to access the content of these images. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram allow users to include alt text when they post. However, although the ability to add alt text exists, it is rarely used or is often used inappropriately, meaning that much of the image-based content on social media is inaccessible. 

A huge amount of the images posted on social media are not original images, instead these are often memes, or gifs that are shared and often re-shared. So, there is an opportunity for the development of a platform that allows people to find pre-written alt text for the memes and gifs they want to post, making the process of posting accessible memes and gifs much easier. 

This project will begin by auditing social media content to identify how often memes and gifs are posted with missing or inappropriate alt text to provide evidence of the prevalence of the issue and impact of the problem. 

The project will then design a platform that allows users to 

  • contribute alt text descriptions of common memes and gifs
  • vote on the ‘best’ alt text descriptions for memes and gifs, and 
  • search for alt-text to add to their memes and gifs before posting.

Required Skills

We are looking for up to two students with the following skills:

  • Programming skills (experience in either Python or Processing is preferred)
  • Web design and development skills
  • An interest in accessibility

How to Apply

For more details on the summer school application process (including eligibility and funding) please go here: https://digitalcreativity.ac.uk/news/dc-labs-summer-school-2021 

If you would like to ask any informal questions about the research project, please contact Dr Anna Bramwell-Dicks anna.bramwell-dicks@york.ac.uk and Mr Sanjit Samaddar sanjit.samaddar@york.ac.uk 

For questions about the programme, logistics etc, please contact Ella Eyre, DC Labs Administrator, on enquiries@digitalcreativity.ac.uk 

Supervisors

Dr Anna Bramwell-Dicks, Lecturer in Web Development and Interactive Media, Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media

Mr Sanjit Samaddar, Associate Lecturer in Interactive Media, Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media

Further Reading

Cole Gleason, Patrick Carrington, Lydia B. Chilton, Benjamin Gorman, Hernisa Kacorri, Andrés Monroy-Hernández, Meredith Ringel Morris, Garreth Tigwell, and Shaomei Wu. 2020. Future research directions for accessible social media. SIGACCESS Access. Comput., 127, Article 3 (June 2020), 12 pages.DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3412836.3412839

Cole Gleason, Amy Pavel, Xingyu Liu, Patrick Carrington, Lydia B. Chilton, and Jeffrey P. Bigham. 2019. Making Memes Accessible. In The 21st International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '19). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 367–376. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3308561.3353792