Blind and sighted readers have sharply completely different takes on what content material is most helpful to incorporate in a chart caption

Three columns containing numerous graphics. The primary accommodates the canonical Flatten the Curve coronavirus chart and two textual descriptions of that chart, color-coded based on the 4 ranges of the semantic content material mannequin offered within the paper. The second accommodates a corpus visualization of two,147 sentences describing charts, additionally color-coded, and faceted by chart sort and problem. The third accommodates two warmth maps, akin to blind and sighted readers’ ranked preferences for the 4 ranges of semantic content material, indicating that blind and sighted readers have sharply diverging preferences. Credit score: Massachusetts Institute of Expertise

Within the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention produced a easy chart as an instance how measures like masks carrying and social distancing might “flatten the curve” and scale back the height of infections.

The chart was amplified by information websites and shared on social media platforms, however it typically lacked a corresponding textual content description to make it accessible for blind people who use a display screen reader to navigate the net, shutting out lots of the 253 million folks worldwide who’ve visible disabilities.

This different textual content is commonly lacking from on-line charts, and even when it’s included, it’s continuously uninformative and even incorrect, based on qualitative information gathered by scientists at MIT.

These researchers performed a research with blind and sighted readers to find out which textual content is beneficial to incorporate in a chart description, which textual content is just not, and why. In the end, they discovered that captions for blind readers ought to deal with the general traits and statistics within the chart, not its design parts or higher-level insights.

In addition they created a conceptual mannequin that can be utilized to guage a chart description, whether or not the textual content was generated routinely by software program or manually by a human writer. Their work might assist journalists, lecturers, and communicators create descriptions which might be simpler for blind people and information researchers as they develop higher instruments to routinely generate captions.

“Ninety-nine-point-nine % of pictures on Twitter lack any type of description—and that’s not hyperbole, that’s the precise statistic,” says Alan Lundgard, a graduate pupil within the Laptop Science and Synthetic Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and lead writer of the paper. “Having folks manually writer these descriptions appears to be troublesome for a wide range of causes. Maybe semiautonomous instruments might assist with that. However it’s essential to do that preliminary participatory design work to determine what’s the goal for these instruments, so we aren’t producing content material that’s both not helpful to its meant viewers or, within the worst case, misguided.”

Lundgard wrote the paper with senior writer Arvind Satyanarayan, an assistant professor of pc science who leads the Visualization Group in CSAIL. The analysis will likely be offered on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Visualization Convention in October.

Evaluating visualizations

To develop the conceptual mannequin, the researchers deliberate to start by learning graphs featured by in style on-line publications reminiscent of FiveThirtyEight and NYTimes.com, however they bumped into an issue—these charts principally lacked any textual descriptions. So as an alternative, they collected descriptions for these charts from graduate college students in an MIT information visualization class and thru a web based survey, then grouped the captions into 4 classes.

Degree 1 descriptions deal with the weather of the chart, reminiscent of its title, legend, and colours. Degree 2 descriptions describe statistical content material, just like the minimal, most, or correlations. Degree 3 descriptions cowl perceptual interpretations of the info, like advanced traits or clusters. Degree 4 descriptions embody subjective interpretations that transcend the info and draw on the writer’s data.

In a research with blind and sighted readers, the researchers offered visualizations with descriptions at completely different ranges and requested members to charge how helpful they had been. Whereas each teams agreed that degree 1 content material by itself was not very useful, sighted readers gave degree 4 content material the best marks whereas blind readers ranked that content material among the many least helpful.

Survey outcomes revealed {that a} majority of blind readers had been emphatic that descriptions shouldn’t comprise an writer’s editorialization, however somewhat keep on with straight information in regards to the information. However, most sighted readers most well-liked an outline that informed a narrative in regards to the information.

“For me, a shocking discovering in regards to the lack of utility for the highest-level content material is that it ties very carefully to emotions about company and management as a disabled particular person. In our analysis, blind readers particularly did not need the descriptions to inform them what to consider the info. They need the info to be accessible in a method that enables them to interpret it for themselves, and so they need to have the company to try this interpretation,” Lundgard says.

A extra inclusive future

This work might have implications as information scientists proceed to develop and refine machine studying strategies for autogenerating captions and different textual content.

“We’re not in a position to do it but, however it’s not inconceivable to think about that sooner or later we might be capable to automate the creation of a few of this higher-level content material and construct fashions that focus on degree 2 or degree 3 in our framework. And now we all know what the analysis questions are. If we need to produce these automated captions, what ought to these captions say? We’re in a position to be a bit extra directed in our future analysis as a result of we now have these 4 ranges,” Satyanarayan says.

Sooner or later, the four-level framework might additionally assist researchers develop machine studying fashions that may routinely recommend efficient visualizations as a part of the info evaluation course of, or fashions that may extract probably the most helpful data from a chart.

This analysis might additionally inform future work in Satyanarayan’s group that seeks to make interactive visualizations extra accessible for blind readers who use a display screen reader to entry and interpret the knowledge.

“The query of how to make sure that charts and graphs are accessible to display screen reader customers is each a socially vital fairness concern and a problem that may advance the state-of-the-art in AI,” says Meredith Ringel Morris, director and principal scientist of the Folks + AI Analysis workforce at Google Analysis, who was not concerned with this research. “By introducing a framework for conceptualizing pure language descriptions of knowledge graphics that’s grounded in end-user wants, this work helps make sure that future AI researchers will focus their efforts on issues aligned with end-users’ values.”

Morris provides: “Wealthy natural-language descriptions of knowledge graphics won’t solely develop entry to vital data for people who find themselves blind, however will even profit a a lot wider viewers as eyes-free interactions through good audio system, chatbots, and different AI-powered brokers turn into more and more commonplace.”


Chrome descriptions of pictures will clue in blind and low imaginative and prescient customers


Extra data:
Alan Lundgard et al, Accessible Visualization through Pure Language Descriptions: A 4-Degree Mannequin of Semantic Content material, IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Laptop Graphics (2021). DOI: 10.1109/TVCG.2021.3114770

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Massachusetts Institute of Expertise


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