Chapter 7 page 87

Emmie barely catches the faintest of the Lord of the Earth's thought and asks the little one accompanying them about it - but before they can dwell on it, they're found by two messagebot maijis.
Emmie: Did you hear something?
?: HEY!!
Messagebot Maiji 1: Morio’s looking for you!!
Maiji 2: We can’t pass the no- signal zone!!
*(Invisible boundary) NO-SIGNAL ZONE*
Maiji 1: He’s so worried he sent two messages!! 
*arrows pointing at both maijis: The two messages*
Maiji 2: He never does that!!!
Emmie: Wah!! I’m sorry!!

Author’s notes: I forgot to say last week that I did a new Emmie drawing and also added some more images to the gallery!

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been slowly redoing alt text and transcripts on all comic pages to improve accessibility. I finally finished rewriting and posting all of them! They’re not perfect, but they’re definitely an improvement over my previous screen reader descriptions.

Read more.

I learned a lot going through each page and trying to decide how best to summarize it alongside the existing dialogue/sound effect scripts. Pages with the first appearance of a character or setting were, of course, longer. Sometimes I spent a lot of words describing a very specific action because it was so important to the scene. Other times I went with capturing an impression over a very detailed, literal description. In general I found pages with no dialogue easier, since the description didn’t have to compete with a separate script appearing immediately after.

One thing I found inspiring and helpful to keep in mind was captions from old storybooks – you know, the kind in school readers or fairy tale compilations with woodblock illustrations that have the mildly redundant explanatory, context-setting captions like “The Pied Piper, playing the flute, leads the children out the gates of Hamelin”. It didn’t always translate perfectly, since comics are multiple panels versus a single illustration, but that idea of averaging out the sequence and focusing on key takeaways was helpful. I also thought about fully text-based mediums like written stories and scripts.

Here’s an example of the kind of personal debates I’d run into. In chapter 2, Morio takes Emmie on a very literal tour of the house – almost acting like a screen reader himself in this case. I considered detailing the appearance of each area Morio was showing, but ultimately decided not to. It created a lot of extra text that didn’t contribute equivalent value to the overall story or experience. This is definitely an art, and not a science!

All in all, a very worthwhile exercise. You can try it yourself too! Simply take any comic page you enjoy, look at it and ask yourself:

  • How would I describe this page to someone who can’t see it?
  • What do I want them to take away from it?
  • How do I do this as succinctly as possible?

It’s quite eye-opening in terms of how it makes you relate to, and even better understand, the content!

If I have time in the future, I might clean up my notes and share all the alt text and captions. This way anyone, whether or not you’re using a screen reader, can easily see and reference it. I trust people will also easily see ways that the alt text could be improved, haha. (One immediate thing I realized after, for example, is the all-caps screaming that is often in the dialogue. Screen readers may interpret all caps as acronyms and read out each individual letter, oh dear. Something for me to re-evaluate…) Hopefully it will support learnings for everyone!

♥ Maiji (February 24, 2020)

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