Depict Image Descriptions for the Blind

Photo of Depict website on two computer monitors on a desk

Photo of a woman using the Depict browser extension

Project Description

Master's thesis project for MFA in Design and Technology at Parsons.

A crowd-sourced image description tool to enable the visually impaired to navigate the web with a little more ease.

Project Website

A big problem the non-sighted community is faced with is the issue of lack of accessibility on the web. One example of this is the misuse or failure to use alt tags in HTML to describe images. Depict is a two-part project composed of a browser extension and website that provides visually impaired web users with a platform to request image descriptions from sighted web users.

I began this thesis process studying accessibility design to find out what would make web interactions easier to integrate into a world where touch and sound replace sight for the blind. In order to reach my goal of helping to provide easier and less limited web experiences for the blind I’ve narrowed my focus to providing descriptive information of visual elements found on the web to blind web users. I have created a crowd-sourced image description website where sighted web users can provide image descriptions to images that blind web users submit from a browser extension.

The lure of this project to blind users is that they can have sighted web users providing visual information to them in written form. In order to attract sighted users to provide the image descriptions, the images that are uploaded by blind users link to their original context. This makes the website a feed of information, including news articles, websites, etc, much like Pinterest, Feedly, and other news feed sites.

A browser extension and a website are ideal platforms for this project because of the wide reach and immediate communication capabilities they provide. I built this website, with the help of Jason Sanders, using HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, and polymer.

Currently, many websites do not have alt tags in their HTML for image descriptions or they do have them but they are lacking appropriate descriptions. My hope is that with Depict blind web users can explore websites that were once inaccessible to them due to a lack of clarity in their visual content, and they can explore the web more confidently. My criteria for success for this project is the increased freedom and flexibility for blind people on the web.