Since comics are a visual medium, they often ignore people with visual impairments. What can we do to make comics inclusive to all readers?
McGee-Tubb explained different methods you can use, shared useful resources, and highlighted examples of accessible comics.
An accessibility specialist and longtime amateur cartoonist, McGee-Tubb recently earned her Master’s degree in comics. I’ve followed her for a couple years on Twitter, and was glad to learn techniques for creating accessible comics.
Here are my notes:
- The building blocks of comics are relationships
- The first relationship is between an image and an image (consider two panels of comics, telling a story). The second relationship is between an image and text (cartoon with text). The third relationship is between the image and culture (which can be told if the reader is familiar with the culture)
- How do you start making comics accessible?
— DeborahEdwards-Onoro (@redcrew) June 9, 2017
- There aren’t any agreed-upon formatting guidelines for comic transcripts
- What you should consider for comic transcripts: what is the tone of this work? Comics are fun and creative, how would you convey the tone? How would you tell this story on the radio? Example: Netflix audio descriptions
- Ohno Robot is a personalized comic search and transcription site. As of June 2017, it has more than 144,000 comics that have been transcribed by volunteer transcribers. Impressive!
- Recommendation: for more info on creating transcripts, read On Describing Comics essay by Liana Kerr
- When writing transcripts, provide details about how characters are dressed, their pose, any meaningful objects in the comic panel
- Include a visible link or visible transcript immediately after the comic. Provides information to everyone, not only people with visual impairments.
- Make comic text legible: use good color contrast for text and important visual pieces. Use large font size and appropriate kerning. On the web, can comic text be highlighted so people can read it?
- Create high resolution comics. Low resolution can cause blurring.
- ComicsML, an XML-based markup language for digital comics, allows you to describe your own content. Note: the project hasn’t been updated for 10+ years. The creator, Jason McIntosh, stated he has no plans to update documentation or work on the project.
- One approach McGee-Tubb has used for digital comics: creating the transcript with HTML, using
alttext for images, and
- Innovative accessible comics: 3D printed tactile comics and Braille comics (no speech balloons or illustrations). A different look at what comics can be: a combination of things that interact with each other.
- What does the future of comics hold? If comics don’t have to be text and images on paper (or the web), can we have virtual reality comics? Or something else?
Like websites and web applications, thinking about accessibility when you begin creating your comic is critical. Consider fonts, colors, contrast, and include transcripts to make your comics accessible to all.
If you’re interested, Cordelia McGee-Tubb’s presentation, with closed captions, is available on YouTube.
My thanks to The Paciello Group who organized Inclusive Design 24.
Accessible Comics image credit: Cordelia McGee-Tubb