A Thing About Image Captions

In the process of frantically wrapping up the year in review/hobby goals stuff overnight, I forgot to talk about a thing I’ve started working on.

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve added more thorough image captions to newer posts on this site (and while I honestly may not get to it all, I have intentions of doing this with my older posts over time, as well). If you haven’t noticed it yet, yes, it’s a thing I’m doing intentionally. This is a work in progress, and one I’m honestly finding to be pretty challenging, but I think it’s worthwhile work, not just for me and my site, but for all of us.

Somehow, I made it decades into my time on the Internet without thinking enough about how my posts, which are occasionally very visual in nature, were severely under-serving visually impaired people. This was a mistake, and I’m sorry that I made it. I’m far from alone in making this mistake, but that doesn’t mean I, or any of us, should just keep making it.

So, recently, I’ve started looking into best practices for captioning images for the visually impaired. This is still a work in progress, without a ton of agreement on a style guide that I’ve been able to find. (If you know of one that’s largely agreed upon, please let me know.)

With that in mind, I’m reading the things I can find on the subject, and am doing my best. On my best days, I’m not great at brevity, so I’m still working on being both concise and descriptive. If you do a lot of this work and have suggestions, please let me know.

If there’s anyone wondering how something like this applies to baseball cards, for instance: I grew up hearing stories about my great-grandfather (my mom’s grandfather), who lived with my mom’s family, and had lost his sight somewhere along the way. He was a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan, but he’d listen to any game on the radio or TV. I don’t know whether he had much exposure to baseball cards, even with younger grand-kids in the house, but given that he was a fan, the information on those cards was just as relevant to him as it is to anyone sighted. If Red Barber and Vin Scully could describe things about the game to him, then I can certainly try my best to do the same for everyone else.

More recently and personally, my eyesight has been deteriorating, most likely as a result of the head injuries I’ve sustained. My last concussion changed my prescription significantly. I can’t read most ingredient lists on food packages, or most card backs, without eyeglasses at this point. (Topps needs to start thinking about big, legible numbers on their cards soon, because their customer base is aging rapidly.) I’ve been pretty fortunate, in that I made it to my 40s without these issues, but it’s still frustrating to lose the ability to do things.

I try not to be a person who only cares about a thing if it’s happening to me, or to someone I know. Above, I noted that I should’ve been doing this work all along, regardless of how well I or anyone else I know can see. Sometimes, these anecdotes help other people understand experiences they may not have had, though, so I’m sharing. In a perfect world, people would do things to help people who need assistance because it’s part of being a decent person and a member of a functioning society. Alas, the world isn’t perfect, and plenty of us aren’t taught to do the right thing on stuff like this (absolutely my experience). So, if me talking about my great-grandfather listening to Dodger games or my not being able to read card backs leads to us making the Internet a better place in some small way, awesome.

This news about captioning also means that this site will transform in some other ways. I’m probably going to opt for shorter posts moving forward, with fewer images. In fairness, the amount of information, especially visual information I’ve included in some of my posts has been excessive at times. (No one *really* needed to see my entire 1971 Topps set, fronts and backs, in a single post.) This may also mean more posts from me, as I’ll be compartmentalizing information a bit more. We’ll see how all of that goes.

In the meantime, if you have thoughts about this subject (and please, be kind, not just to me, but in general), please let me know in the comments, or email me.

5 thoughts on “A Thing About Image Captions”

  1. I gotta be honest, Scott, I absolutely hate this idea… just kidding… I actually think it’s pretty great! Although I do like your longer posts, so I would miss those, but completely understand why you’d want to stop doing them. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think we’ll ever get to a place where everyone helps everyone else just because, and I think a lot of that has to do with the internet, social media in particular. And I’m sorry to hear of your newest troubles, diminishing eyesight is a terrible thing for someone to have to endure. Are there any medical options for this (other than glasses)?

    1. Y’know, that’s a complicated one. I’ve seen an ophthalmologist, who told me that my eyes are structurally sound and have nothing physically wrong with them. My issues with eyesight (and I have similar ones with hearing, memory, balance, etc.) are related to brain damage, and there really isn’t a quick fix there, alas.

      I find it just about impossible to be brief, so my posts will still probably end up being long whether I want them to or not, but out of courtesy to the people who may read them, but might not be able to see them so well, I’m going to try to make them more focused and less visually complex.

      1. My wife has some vision issues (not loss, but spots, patterns etc) and she regularly goes to a neuro-opthalmologist. As you say it’s not something that can just be fixed. In her case it is autoimmune-related and is one of the reasons we are being extra careful about COVID in my household.

        Personally, I feel that losing my eyesight is the scariest potential disability in this day and age, both in general (the internet) and my own particular hobbies (Baseball cards, “old stuff” in general) being so visual in nature.

        1. I’m not surprised that there is such a thing, but a neuro-ophthalmologist was definitely not a thing that was recommended to me. If we ever have a functioning society again, I’ll have to look into those.

          Fingers crossed for you and the family, Bo.

  2. I’m of the mind that people were taught to be shitty to one another, and also taught to look the other way on it, long before social media or even the Internet got its hooks in. I try not to blame the tools themselves (I’ve personally seen lives saved with the same tools people use to be terrible to one another), though obviously, there are some players in charge of said tools who’ve enabled a world of abuse with the “looking the other way” thing.

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