Alt-Text Selfies
Call for Submissions 💖

About/purpose

The purpose of this project is to celebrate, collect, and publish alt-text selfies—the image descriptions that accompany self-portraits posted online. The project will collect alt-text selfies into two formats— 1) a chapbook (a small book) and 2) an online archive.

This project is produced by Shannon Finnegan, Bojana Coklyat, and Olivia Dreisinger, supported by CultureHub and Canada Council. Finnegan and Coklyat are the co-creators of Alt-Text as Poetry, an ongoing project that explores the expressive potential of image description.

Who can submit?

Anyone is welcome to submit.

What is an alt-text selfie?

This project takes a well-known practice—the selfie—and approaches it through a disability lens. For this project, we are defining an alt-text selfie as any written description of a self-portrait.

Selfies and self-descriptions are often visually focused, but your alt-text selfie doesn’t need to center your visual presentation or a literal description of an image. Alt-text selfies may also focus on the olfactory, tactile, emotional, sonic, tastes or some combination.

Alt-text selfies can be any length, but for this project we are focused on writing in the one sentence to one paragraph range.

What is alt-text?

Alternative text, or alt-text, is a written description of an image or visual material. Put another way, alt-text is a non-visual text alternative to digital images. Alt-text is an essential part of web accessibility and is one way to create access to visual content for people who are blind, low vision, or have certain cognitive disabilities.

You can read more about alt-text basics on WebAIM’s website.

Why we are doing this project

Description is an important access practice. Visual description—as well as descriptions of sound, taste, smell, and texture—are ways that we can connect across sensory experiences and distance. Like many access practices, description has often been approached in a dry and compliance-oriented way. We’re excited about the possibilities of description that is pleasurable and makes the Internet, in particular, a more engaging and welcoming place for people with sensory disabilities.

Description and self-description are also complex. When and how do we describe cultural background, race, gender, disability status, age, weight, class for instance? How do we name and acknowledge visual (and non-visual) markers of our identities? How we see and name things is anything but neutral. Disabled people, especially multi-marginalized disabled people, have been writing self-descriptions online in thoughtful and inventive ways. To us, it is a vital facet of disability cultures. We are creating this project in order to celebrate this writing practice. As well, by paying closer attention to self-description, alt-text selfies may give us new tools or ways of describing ourselves.

As we explore the medium of alt-text selfies, accessibility will remain our priority with this project. We are not interested in producing work that results in less access for people who rely on alternative text to access digital content.

Alt-text Selfie examples

Here are a couple of self-descriptions that we have encountered online. They give a taste of the breadth of this writing practice.

Questions and/or access support

If you have any questions or if you need access support throughout the submission process, please contact us at AltTextSelfies@gmail.com. If you would like to arrange an alternate way of submitting your alt-text selfie, please also reach out to us through the email above. We would love to hear from you.

Submission details and instructions

A submission entails a short piece of writing (your alt-text selfie) and some basic contact info. We are not collecting images as part of submissions. You don't need to write something new — if you've posted a selfie online with alt-text before, feel free to use that alt-text!

To submit to the chapbook and/or the archive, please fill out one of the following forms:

Selection criteria

For the chapbook, we'll make selections based on including a variety of styles, approaches, and perspectives. For the online archive, we imagine almost all submissions will be published unless we flag something in your submission that seems potentially harmful or that creates access barriers. In which case, we'll email to check in with you about it.

Publishing timeline

We are aiming to have the chapbook and online archive publicly available in late 2022 or early 2023. Please keep in mind that we are three disabled artists working on this project and the timeline may need to shift accordingly.

Thank you for checking out our alt-text experiment. We look forward to hearing from you!!