Some guidelines for describing images for visually impaired people

We find that good descriptions are quite long, sometimes between 50 and 100 words. So as with the web guidelines, we try to provide a short description (about 15 – 25 words) suitable for someone who just wants to get a quick idea of what the image is about, and then a longer description (50 plus words) for someone who wants to really understand the image.

First try to provide a clear factual description of the image.

1. What are the characteristics of the total image, for example is it a black and white photo in landscape orientation, a highly coloured portrait photo of a dog, a very close up image of a flower ….

2. What locations, people and objects are shown in the image?

3. What are the important and interesting features of each of these aspects (locations, people and objects), for example size, texture, colour?

Describing the colours in an image is very useful to visually impaired people, even if they have never seen colour themselves, they usually know the colours of things, and describing colours can help them to learn about them.

4. What are the orientations and/or relationships between the objects and people (e.g. what is prominent, what is in the background, how are things arranged)?

Secondly try to provide a more aesthetic description of the image (obviously this is subjective and needs to be approached with caution!). What style is the image in, what atmosphere does the image evoke, what is the message in the image?

Colour photo at dusk across a wide river with a bridge and lit skyscrapers beyond; the river reflects the purple of the sky

Skyline of Louisville, Kentucky

Short description: Colour photo at dusk across a wide river with a bridge and lit skyscrapers beyond; the river reflects the purple of the sky. (24 words).

Long description: A colour photograph in portrait orientation of the skyline of a modern city at dusk, shot from across a wide expanse of river. Crossing the river, at an angle in the photo is a cable-stayed bridge in front of tall city skyscrapers lit up. The river reflects a purple streaked sky along with the lights of the cars driving along the river banks and the lights of the skyscrapers. The photo evokes the contrasting themes of the natural beauty of a sunset and the artificial beauty of a modern city. (90 words).