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An “Editor Who Makes Visuals Accessible to All”

“Accessibility…is about ‘identifying and removing barriers to make sure everyone can engage in our stories,’” according to Jaime Tanner, accessibility visuals editor, a position created two years ago at The New York Times. A recent article in Times Insider profiled Tanner’s work as The Times’s first accessibility editor. She has a graduate degree in data visualization and worked previously at Visa, where she “built accessible user interfaces for products and applications.” Tanner found that Times journalists were very receptive to finding out how to make articles and accompanying visuals accessible to readers with disabilities. For individuals with vision loss, “alt text” is commonly used to describe images through reading aloud or presenting as braille with assistive technology. Tanner worked with colleagues to “improve upon and expand the availability of alt text on photos, graphics, and illustrations.” In developing and refining this work, the Times worked with the American Council of the Blind, putting together focus groups and surveys to review examples from articles using alt text. Feedback indicated that articles included too much detail; that “readers wanted it short and sweet.” However, with graphics, more detail on complex visuals, such as weather maps, is often needed. This input has guided efforts to improve accessibility. When Tanner reviews articles, she takes into account the needs of readers who use technologies such as screen readers that read pages aloud or translate them into braille as well as software allowing people to “interact with a page by voice command.” She also noted that journalists now will ask specific questions about accessibility as they prepare their pieces, questions like whether a screen reader will work a quiz being developed. “I’m grateful to see people developing new components of their work with accessibility in mind,” Tanner explained. To read the article from The Times, visit their webpage featuring An Editor Who Makes Times Visuals Accessible to All.