"Malicious Pictorials:" How Alt Text Matters to Screen Reader Users’ Experience of Image-Dense Media


People who are blind face accessibility and usability barriers every time a digital image author omits or creates uninformative alternative or “alt” text. Often, content creators are simply unaware of screen reader users’ experience and accessibility best practices; there is also a lack of research knowledge about how to design accessible image-dense media, like pictorials. We present (1) a content analysis of 149 pictorials, (2) a thematic analysis of three think-aloud sessions with an expert screen reader user, and (3) practical lessons learned from a co-design workshop with three blind scholars. Our research finds that pictorials are increasingly accessible, but they are still far from providing a usable experience. We identify nine “malicious” alt text patterns that riddle pictorials and three novel accessible alt text patterns to guide authors of image-dense media.



Alyson Yin, Riya Sogani, Bruna Oewel, Karen Phan, Jaime Shin Young Park, Mia Ashley Yeo, Lindsay Ann Yazzolino, Karen Arcos, Ali Abdolrahmani, Emily Blank, Michael Dean Gilbert, Stacy M. Branham


DIS 2024