Accessible Comics

A lot of the accessibility initiatives today are focused on web sites and apps. But there’s of course more to the digital world than that. In this article we’ll look at a case where a team has done great work to make their digital comic accessible to people with visual impairments.

Comic with a deamon sitting o the back of a girl who's face down on the floor. Deamon says: "We're accessible!" The girl answers "Horray."

Let’s start with a small experiment!

Imagine a blind person.

What image pops up in your head?

Is it a young person? Is the person at their work? Doing sports? At the cinema? Buying an Apple Watch? Reading a comic? Probably not.

There are many preconceived ideas out there about what people with disabilities do, or rather don’t do. If you don’t have a visual impairment yourself or some blind friends, you probably don’t think of blind people in the above situations. Most people tend to think of an old person with a cane, not doing much. Which of course is a problem that for instance affects how people are treated, job recruitment and which products are made accessible.

So we need to get more people to see people with disabilities as a diverse group with all sorts of jobs, interests and hobbies. And we need to get more people to understand that their users have disabilities, which is what the article “Our users have no disabilities” is all about.

Making a comic accessible

With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised when the team behind a comic contacted us, asking for advice on the style of alt-texts for their comic: 100 Demon Dialogues.

Sidenote: this might seem like a sponsored article, but it’s not. We’re just thrilled to see the great job this team has done and want to share it with you!

Most people would never think about making a comic accessible for people with visual impairments. After all, comics are very visual.

Three images of Lucy Bellwood with a stuffed toy demon on her head and shoulders.

But the author Lucy Bellwood – in the image above – is more inclusive than most people. She wanted to make her comic accessible to comic lovers with visual impairments as well, and brought a team together to get it done. So they asked us to review a couple of alt-texts they had written. It turned out that they’d already grasped the concept very well so our advice was basically: “Great job, keep doing what you’re doing. And can we write about this when it’s out?”

And now the comic is out. We tested it with a screen reader – an assistive technology that speaks alt-texts to the user – and the experience is awesome.

So below are two short, short videos.

  1. An inaccessible experience of a regular comic where the screen reader just says “Background” when it tries to read the content.
  2. The accessible 100 Demon Diaries comic that reads the well crafted alt-texts, which both explain what’s happening visually in the comic and what’s written in text.

It’s so great seeing people making their products accessible, especially when barely anyone else in their field are doing it. Hopefully it motivates more people to do the same thing and opens more people’s minds as to the diverse interests of people with disabilities!

If you’re as happy with this initiative as we are please spread the word about this and give the author Lucy Bellwood (@LuBellWoo) and her team with Kate Brednow, Andy McMillan (@andymcmillan) and Jason Alderman (@justsomeguy) a shoutout on Twitter.

I also strongly recommend the Tumblr A11y Wins – a site that’s dedicated to showcasing positive accessibility examples.

If you want to check out the comic, you can find it in the following places:

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