Alternative text, or “alt-text” is written descriptions of images that are embedded into website code and digital documents that can be read with screen readers by people with visual and other disabilities. An example of alt-text is “a small gray dog sitting on the grass in a park” that accompanies a photo of a dog.
The website Alt-Text as Poetry, created by two disabled artists, centers people with disabilities as it advocates for new ways of thinking about alt-text. They point out that, while alt-text is crucial for people with visual and cognitive impairments and their ability to engage with online materials, it can often be bland and not engaging. Alt-Text as Poetry supports an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture and encourages others to think critically about technology’s effect on society. The website for Alt-Text as Poetry offers free resources and online content as well as a workbook published in English and Spanish. The workbook reframes alt-text as a type of poetry and provides exercises to practice writing it. The authors don’t just want alt-text users to be able to access visual content on the internet; they want them to feel a sense of belonging in digital spaces. The website also offers workshops for organizations or other groups and a blog that shares examples of alt-text image descriptions.
The Alt-Text as Poetry website is viewed as a promising practice because it reimagines approaches to the creation of alt-text and encourages participation of the disabled community in making online communities more accessible, fun, and welcoming.