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Case Study 8.2: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

During the 2020 pandemic, the University of North Carolina (UNC) developed five accessibility remediation projects for work-study students working from home. These projects focused on both UNC’s Digital Collections Repository (DCR) and Carolina Digital Repository (CDR) and each was managed by a team lead. Projects included:


  • Create alt descriptions for images: Students worked with a spreadsheet to update image descriptions. In the spreadsheet, they identified image format from a pre-set dropdown list, transcribed all text on images, flagged offensive content, and wrote alt text descriptions of 140 characters or less. In writing these descriptors, they were instructed to follow guidelines outlined by the Conscious Editing Initiative. Following these practices, they included racial and ethnic identities in descriptions in an effort to combat the frequent erasure of Black and brown experiences and histories.


  • Transcribe handwritten 19th-century manuscripts: Students joined volunteers in using FromThePage, a crowdsourcing tool that allows participants to read and transcribe documents page by page.


  • Create transcripts from mp3 audio files: Project participants used the free tool Express Scribe to assist with this effort.


  • Create closed captioning and transcripts for video files: Project participants used Microsoft Stream in the Office 365 Suite to create closed captioning and the GoTranscript Subtitle Converter to create specific transcript formats. They chose these tools over YouTube due to privacy concerns.


  • Remediate PDFs for accessibility: For this project, students would have used FoxIt software to remediate PDFs. Due to the labor-intensive nature of this work, PDFs were only remediated as requested in 2020.


These projects proved really effective for advancing remediation work. As of early 2021, project participants had produced alt text for 11,000 images and transcripts for 8,500 pages of handwritten manuscripts.


Efforts at UNC also highlight the importance of creating accessibility initiatives that work to bring about greater racial, gender, and class equity. UNC’s Conscious Editing Initiative invited students and volunteers to keep these considerations at the forefront as they created alternative descriptions and remediated access to materials.


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Case Study 8.2: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill by Talea Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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