Accessibility Statement

The staff of the Visual Resources Center (VRC) are committed to providing an accessible and inclusive environment in our Center and through our digital collections and web resources. While efforts to make our services, resources, and digital collections more accessible are underway, we acknowledge that work remains to be done. We make this statement in order to be transparent about the access issues we have identified, the action items required to make improvements, our priorities, and the status of the work. 

Recognizing the ongoing and iterative nature of digital accessibility work, we will review and update this statement quarterly to reflect changes and iterative improvements. If there is anything you would like to request improvements for, or if you have any questions, please write to visualresources@uchicago.edu. [Last updated 6/15/21]

We are grateful to our campus colleagues at the Center for Digital Accessibility (CDA), Equal Opportunity Programs, Student Disability Services, and the University of Chicago Library for their guidance and leadership.

Bridget Madden, Associate Director 
Allie Scholten, Digital Collections Manager
Signed June 16, 2021

Physical Accessibility

The VRC is committed to accessibility for all of our services and resources. However, the VRC (including staff offices, Digitization Lab and the Joel Snyder Materials Collection) is located on the second floor of the Cochrane-Woods Art Center and accessible only by stairs. 
If you need an accommodation to access VRC equipment or services, please email visualresources@uchicago.edu. For equipment and software made available to students and faculty by reservation in the VRC lab, we have prepared an accessibility accommodation plan should the need arise for someone to access VRC services and/or equipment but for whom CWAC is inaccessible. Please note that some accessibility accommodation plans involve temporarily relocating workstations to other locations within CWAC, while others may rely on referrals to other colleagues and resources on campus that offer equivalent resources.

Digital Accessibility

The VRC is committed to making its digital resources and collections accessible to all users. Creating and maintaining accessible digital image assets and other visual resources presents unique opportunities and challenges. We are eager to begin addressing these challenges in order to make our resources for teaching and researching art history and Humanities disciplines that engage with visual and material culture more accessible to all users. 
(Please note: while some VRC services and resources are publicly available, most VRC services and resources, including many of our LUNA digital collections, are password-protected and available only to active University of Chicago CNetID holders, including faculty, staff, and students. Please see the VRC’s Collections Development Policy for more information and contact visualresources@uchicago.edu with any questions.)

VRC Workshops and Presentations

Following the guidelines for Audio, Video, and Slideshows in the CDA’s Accessibility for Content Creators, when hosting live virtual workshops or presentations, the VRC uses the following accessibility features: [Ongoing; Priority 1] 

  • Including closed captioning generated by automatic speech recognition
  • Including instructions on how to request accommodations, such as live captioning or sign language interpretation, on event registration forms
  • Correcting the auto-generated transcript before making the video recording available publicly
  • Providing access to the slide deck before and after the event
  • Employing collaborative “community notetaking” practices when appropriate
  • Audibly describing images and processes when appropriate

The VRC has prepared an internal event accessibility plan that includes a list of potential vendors and will budget appropriately should accommodations be requested to support an attendees’ participation in a live VRC event.

Canvas, Documents, and Pedagogical Resources

The VRC regularly adds a module to Art History Canvas course sites highlighting VRC services and resources for students. We have updated this module to meet better accessibility practices, including removing the thumbnail icons that functioned as links to LUNA and Artstor. [Ongoing; Priority 1]
When creating pedagogical resources, documents, and other products, the VRC follows the guidelines for Documents in the CDA’s Accessibility for Content Creators. [Ongoing; Priority 1]

VRC Digital Collections (LUNA)

The VRC subscribes to LUNA, a digital asset management software that we use to host digital image collections for teaching and research in Art History and the Humanities and co-host content in collaboration with partners at the University of Chicago Library and campus arts spaces. In our ongoing conversations with LUNA, they have strengthened the accessibility of their platform based on our feedback. For more information, please refer to LUNA’s Accessibility Statement.

Alt-Text in VRC Collections Workflows and LUNA

The VRC uses a modified version of the VRA Core metadata schema to catalog our images. VRC staff will work with the VRA Core Oversight Committee (Core OC), a sub-committee of VRA’s Cataloging and Metadata Standards Committee (CaMS), to explore whether it is possible to officially add an alt-text element to the VRA Core schema. [Ongoing; Priority 3]

In anticipation of the potential changes to the VRA Core schema, VRC staff recently added an alt-text field to our internal cataloging utility based in FileMaker Pro. This will allow us to create alt-text descriptions for new images cataloged going forward as part of our existing cataloging workflows. [Ongoing; Priority 1] We will also retrospectively add alt-text to existing images, with priority given to images related to current curricular and research priorities and to specific requests as they arise. [Ongoing; Priority 2] The new descriptions can be shared with students and faculty as necessary for use in their teaching and presentations. 

VRC staff also need to retrospectively address alt-text in collaboration with our campus partners with whom we host collaborative digital collections in LUNA. [Need to begin; Priority 3]

The images in our LUNA collections currently have alt-text associated with them which is pulled from the “Title” field of the LUNA record. We look forward to implementing more robust alt-text workflows to provide higher quality alt-text from our VCat cataloging utility when LUNA is able to develop such a feature. [Requested of LUNA May 2021; Priority 3].

External Resources for Alt-Text

In order to create meaningful alt-text for images of art and architecture, the VRC will follow external resources and best practices such as:

Inclusive Language

The terms used in LUNA, our digital collections database, often come from subject heading authorities such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings and the Getty Vocabularies. The subject headings for describing people in artworks can be biased, outdated, incorrect, or actively harmful. Critical cataloging work, an action item outlined in the VRC’s Commitment to Ethical and Anti-Racist Digital Collections Stewardship, is ongoing to assess these terms and update them to be in line with language used by the community. You can view updated terms on the VRC’s Subject Language Guide. While we are actively working to identify and repair problematic language in LUNA, there are tens of thousands of records to review, and we invite you to propose edits or flag problematic records that you come across while using LUNA. In addition, the Art History Department Image Collection in LUNA, our primary collection, needs to be rebuilt, and many existing improvements to inclusive language will not be visible to LUNA users until we have rebuilt the collection. Please email visualresources@uchicago.edu to submit corrections or propose edits. [Ongoing; Priority 2]

The University maintains an Inclusive Language Resource through the Campus Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). Although this guide is too general for the VRC’s digital collections context, it is an excellent campus resource for inclusive language, especially within the context of interpersonal interaction.

Digital Collections Project Management 

Going forward, VRC staff will include an accessibility section in our project management and timeline planning processes for new digital collections projects, whether they are internal VRC projects or collaborative projects with campus partners. [Need to begin; Priority 2]

VRC Website

The VRC has identified areas for improvement and we will implement a new website to better conform to existing standards and will work to enhance digital inclusion. Particular areas of VRC emphasis will be alt-text for images, properly formatted heading structures, and meaningful link text. [Ongoing; Priority 1]

When reviewing external tools, platforms, resources, and collections to potentially recommend or promote to our users, VRC staff will include a note about any accessibility considerations in our assessment. [Need to begin; Priority 1.]

Inclusive Language

The jargon used to describe workflows and best practices in IT, digital collections, and digital library workflows can perpetuate biased and harmful language. We have reviewed our public-facing website and our internal wiki for staff and student project management and edited the language to be more inclusive. There are several guides that feature examples of replacement terms, and we recommend this guide from the University of Guelph. Note that some language referencing outside software does not follow language guides. [Ongoing; Priority 1]

VRC Social Media Accounts

Following the guidelines for Social Media Posts in the CDA’s Accessibility for Content Creators, the VRC will provide alt-text and written image descriptions of images posted to our social media accounts going forward: Instagram @uchicagovrc, Twitter @uchicagovrc, and Facebook @UChicagoVRC. [Ongoing; Priority 1]

Additionally, we will review the backlog of 200+ Instagram posts and Facebook posts. We will prioritize retrospectively adding alt-text to these platforms based on traffic and we will address specific requests as they arise. [Need to begin; Priority 2]

Project Priority Guide

Priority 1: These projects are a top priority for the VRC, and the goal is to implement the changes within the next 3-12 months.

Priority 2: These projects can be completed by the VRC, though may require student employment positions, funding, or other dependent factors that will affect the timeline. Our goal is to implement these changes within the next 1-2 years. 

Priority 3: Starting/continuing these projects are dependent upon the work of a partnering/outside organization. The VRC will implement these as soon as possible, though its lower prioritization is due to external timelines and dependencies.