A picture that’s worth a thousand words? But do we know how to correctly reconstruct those words in a description for those who can’t use the visualisation? As a reminder, it’s worth checking out these guidelines. So, how about 100 words, a few nested lists and a table? After all, diversity is cool.

When practice meets guidelines

We all know: following guidelines and writing them are two different things, and unfortunately these often don’t go hand in hand. However, from my perspective with the latest update of IRIS, a dream has come true. Definitely a personal dream for me as a blind individual, captivated in the world of science and data representations. But also a dream in the development of IRIS. And what’s best? Now we can share it with you all. But what is it?

Upload a diagram, get the table

As of last week, if you upload a pie chart,, histogram, or other diagram of the same sort, our app allows volunteers to transcribe the image using a standard html table. You don’t only get the narrative of what’s on the plot, but get the juicy data as a clear and easy to navigate data structure. Simply amazing.

Let’s see what it looks like in practice.

A pie chart showing the mode of transport for students.

Hello, I’ve replied with a table showing how much (roughly) each segment of the pie chart takes up, ordered by size from largest to smallest – let me know if you have any questions!

Segment name Rough fraction
Bus one third
car one fourth
walk one sixth
cycle one sixth
taxi one twelfth

Why does that matter to me?

Actually, even better to ask, why does it matter to you all? Because it’s just making access to scientific data so much more convenient. I don’t need to read half a page description to make a quick comparison, but simply navigate through the cells and columns of the table, and build up my own mental representation.

This time, in particular we wanted to address the remark which says:

Tables, pie charts and bar charts should be presented as tables, not as narrative description. Proper coding of tables, including captions, table headers, and table data, provide better access to tables than narrative description. Brief summaries or overviews of the charts should be presented before the tables.

Only the beginning

We are surely not the first one to do it; however, turning a diagram into something so usable has never been that simple. A cross platform interface, available to our sighted volunteers from the league of scientists, and a table editor just a few clicks away.
As a vision impaired student, publisher, teacher, all you need to do is upload an image, lean back and wait for your beautifully organised data. And this is just the beginning. Saw that list of guidelines? We are going to tackle the challenge of high quality and standardised diagram descriptions step by step, providing more and more tools.

What is that you want to see next?

Keep an eye on the coming beta releases of IRIS to see what new features we are adding. More importantly, why don’t you tell us what you want to see next. mathematical equations displayed in MathML when the legend in a diagram includes a formula? Nested lists for processes and flowcharts?

Like with science in general, and our determination to make it inclusive for those with disabilities, now we are happy to share a slice of the pie with everyone.

A slice of the pie for everyone
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