How Learning ASL Improved my Alt Text


Knowing how to explain things in an inherently visual language can help to explain visual images in inherently non-visual ways. The structure of description in American Sign Language has parallels with the needs of those who can't see an image, but want to understand it.

Learn the basic concepts around alt text and the basic conceptual structure of visual description, review some examples, pick apart the process of how each piece fits together, and then we’ll run through a few, together.

Presenter Bio:

Shawn Lauriat works as a software engineer focusing on accessibility of Google Docs. He joined Google in 2011 as an engineer on the Documents team. In 1999 he dropped out of high school, in 2000 started working in the web development world, and in 2002 started working in the web accessibility world. He published a book in 2007 called Advanced Ajax: Architectures and Best Practices, based on his experience in creating rich Internet applications.

Member of New York Theatre Organ Society, American Theatre Organ Society, Inwood Canoe Club, American Canoe Association, co-facilitator of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group Silver Task Force, co-founder/organizer of AccessibilityNYC, and unabashed enthusiast of local history, music, cooking, and homebrewing.

Caveats: Not Deaf or a user of alt text. Not a linguist, philologist, or artist. Not a photographer, writer, or audio describer. Just someone who tries to make things more accessible and include everyone, even when just posting photos on Facebook and Twitter.