When to use written descriptions

Tactile graphic of a park with a fence around the edge, round trees, a lake on the left, a dashed pathway, rectangular seats, a slide and a monument.
Tactile graphic of a park with a fence around the edge, trees, a lake on the left, a pathway, seats, a slide in the top right and a monument in the lower right quadrant.

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

Last updated: August 8, 2018 at 14:07 pm