Image Descriptions: A Quick Guide & How-To

What are image descriptions and why are they important? Guest writer Rebecca Marie Stout explains.

By Rebecca Marie Stout, guest writer

Image descriptions are necessary for blind, deafblind, low vision, visually impaired people as well as people with vision processing disorders, ADD / ADHD, other cognitive disorders. Not to mention people who have slow internet connections or limited memory in their devices.

People who use screen readers aren’t able to know what a picture looks like, or what images with text say without image descriptions or alt text; and other people who visually read need image descriptions to see or understand what is going on in images.

Image descriptions describe what an image looks like and / or says. The best (and usually easiest) way to include image descriptions is in the caption. You can write a brief explanation covering the basics or you can write a very detailed description – or something in between. You can also include your own commentary or quips if you so choose.

What to include in image descriptions:

  • Placement of objects
  • Surroundings
  • Colors
  • Image styling (photo, painting, meme, etc)
  • People in pictures – if known include race, gender/agender and names. If not known use gender-neutral pronouns and “presents as (feminine, masculine, androgynous)”. Same for race (“person of color” or “light complexion”). Include hair color or style, glasses, clothing – if important detail – and position of person or people. Also include emotions (smiling, crying, distant, etc)
  • Animals – if you want to get specific add color(s) and breed.
  • Placement of text and emojis

Where to write image descriptions:

Here are some links for further information and examples of writing an image description. There are also Facebook groups that provide community help with writing image descriptions. Join to get help and to help other people out when you can.

Link for more info and examples:

What is Alt Text: https://moz.com/learn/seo/alt-text
I used this to help write my post:
http://www.perkinselearning.org/technology/blog/how-write-alt-text-and-image-descriptions-visually-impaired

A little bit about our guest writer, Rebecca Marie Stout (she/they pronouns): Autistic, blind, living completely from bed, severely chronically ill, and badass truth teller. Check out their Facebook page “Constance Lee N. Payne” to learn more!

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