The Huntington’s story dates back to 1903, when Henry Edwards Huntington and his wife Arabella Duval Huntington began amassing extensive library, art, and botanical collections that continue to evolve to this day.
Now a non-profit organization, The Huntington is one of the world's greatest independent research institutions, with a library of some 11 million digital records, a museum with 42,000 objects and art pieces, and botanical gardens with 2,000 different types of plants.
The Huntington’s online art collection includes 18,634 visual works of art such as paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures. Accessibility of these works is not only critically important for the overall experience of disabled researchers and patrons, but it is also legally required. As a federally funded program, the organization is required to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which states that everyone must be able to fully participate in federally funded programs as an employee or member of the public. And as a business with operations in California, it is required to comply with WCAG under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
The Huntington partnered with Scribely to make their majestic collection accessible and engaging for all audiences. Scribely’s writing team focused on preserving the integrity of the collection and removing any personal interpretation from their image descriptions. Our goal was to enable blind and visually impaired patrons to visualize and draw their own conclusions about the works of art.
258 images (139 art/sculpture images, 119 botanical/grounds images) were selected to kick off the Huntington’s image accessibility project. After reviewing the project details, a Scribely Project Manager advised the organization on accessibility standards and best practices for alt text and extended description to satisfy WCAG and Section 504 requirements. The Project Manager then assembled a tribe of Scribely’s expert art and botanical writers to craft accurate and authentic image descriptions. For example, accessibility writers who can also identify and describe the techniques and composition styles of art movements across history.
The writers were instructed to review any descriptive information, such as the artist/maker, date, and medium, that already existed on the collections page, to add missing descriptive elements, and to remove personal interpretation from descriptions. As the writers worked through their assigned images, the Project Manager routed completed descriptions to the quality assurance (QA) team to be reviewed for consistency, accuracy, and structure.
The Huntington’s large image library called for a systematic approach for tracking and managing image file names, thumbnails, categories, and descriptions. Scribely’s Project Manager opted for a database structure to track work across art and botanical writing and QA teams, delivering alt text and extended descriptions in separate columns for ease of reference.
Check out our description below of one of The Huntington's featured portrait paintings.
Alt Text: American artist Kehinde Wiley’s “A Portrait of a Young Gentleman” depicts a Black man wearing a black and orange tie dye t-shirt, blue shorts, black Vans with a white stripe, and a white smart watch.
Extended Description: The man stands with left hand on hip looking out in front of him. His blond hair is in tight braids falling down to about ear level. He holds a black baseball cap with a red logo in his right hand. The background is purple, with a repeating pattern of individual orange flowers weaved together with clusters of small blue flowers on a vine. Tendrils crawl up the man’s legs and arms, making it appear as though he is somehow part of the floral background.
Through working with Scribely, The Huntington was able to tackle a large, complicated content accessibility project with ease, saving time and in-house resources. Scribely’s subject matter and accessibility experts helped the company not only ensure authenticity and precision in their image descriptions, but also full compliance with Section 504 and WCAG standards. And with the creation of a new image description database, The Huntington now has a clear structure to be used in their ongoing image accessibility efforts.