When to use written descriptions
Written descriptions are relatively quick and easy to produce, and can therefore be considered for most graphics. Even when another accessible format is being provided, a short description often helps to provide a quick overview and orientation.
A description is not required when:
- the image is purely decorative and does not add meaning; or
- the required information is already described in the caption or surrounding text.
A description is helpful when:
- the image directly conveys information
- the image illustrates a concept and/or makes it more memorable, e.g. cartoons
A description is inadequate when the diagram has an important spatial component, e.g. maps, scatter plots or complex process/flow charts. However, it can still be useful as an accompaniment to the more suitable format. For example, a short description of the type of diagram and direction of reading assists with interpretation of a tactile graphic, as illustrated on the right.
Written descriptions are best integrated into the original document.
Short descriptions giving the type and/or title of a graphic can be included as a caption for all readers.
Longer descriptions written specifically for vision impaired users can be added as alt text.
Guidelines, examples and training
- POET image description training module
- NCAM Guidelines for Describing STEM images
- DIAGRAM webinar on how to describe complex images for accessibility
- DIAGRAM Image Description Guidelines (2015)
- Round Table Guidelines on Conveying Visual Information (2005)
Last updated: August 8, 2018 at 14:07 pm