Icons of the accessibility symbol, a paper tag labeled ‘Alt’, and a photograph.

The Scientific Python blog has just gotten a little more accessible! If you didn’t catch our invite on Twitter or run into the problem firsthand, there’s a good chance you might not have noticed the new descriptions for a number of blog post images.

Since it’s not a flashy improvement, we wanted to make a point to highlight the community effort to to make a more accessible blog–and internet as a whole–last week.

What did we do?#

In the spirit of Scientific Python’s mission to build community-developed and inclusive spaces, the project had its first image description workshop on May 13, 2022. We gathered to learn about and practice writing about images from the ground up. Image descriptions– often called alt text– are one of many accessibility considerations that people making content are responsible for. Missing alt text is among the most common culprits of inaccessible content on the internet. Fortunately, missing alt text has a clear fix even for those new to with accessibility: describe the image based on its context.

Some of the team behind the alt text. Listed from left to right in Zoom, they are Mars Lee, Jarrod Millman, Isabela Presedo-Floyd, Jan-Hendrik Müller, Mridul Seth, Maxwell Grover, Noa Tamir, Pamphile Roy, and Saranjeet Kaur. Several event participants are not pictured per their request.

During this event, thirteen people wrote 23 image descriptions to improve 11 blog posts in one hour (plus the time for post-event feedback 😉). Wow! The images covered range from illustrative additions, to creative tutorials, to charts that carry the message of the blog post, so it provides great set of examples on how to consider writing alt text in different situations.

That’s not even counting the many questions, discussions, and ephiphanies that happened during out work time. Learning can’t be captured as easily by a number, but a taste of our less quantifiable wins can be found on the workshop recording.

Want to learn more?#

If you want to further explore the experience and relive the joy, you can find resources on the event agenda, discussions on the working pull request, and the final steps needed to make change on the contributing pull request.

But wait, there’s more! While the community made great progress on improving the blog, the work to add or improve alt text on Scientific Python’s blog, website, and documentation is ongoing. You can continue these efforts by

  • Contributing as an individual! There’s no reason you can’t write some image descriptions for your favorite blog post to make it even better. (👀 This is a great excuse to find a new favorite blog post.)
  • Contributing as a group! Collect your friends, co-workers, neighbors, local book club attendees, or others to team up and write alt text. (Help for duplicating the process of our group PR can be found on the draft event documentation.)
  • Staying in touch for announcements of future contributing events on the Scientific Python Twitter.

This image description event has been run across multiple open-source projects in the scientific computing ecosystem. Reach out via issue if you are interested in running a similar event on a project you are part of. ❤️