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Guide to Image Descriptions

    Creator: Accessible Publishing

    Date Updated: February 17, 2022

    Overview, a website developed by the National Network of Equitable Library Service (NNELS), presents information and resources to help publishers, libraries, and other organizations create and provide access to accessible eBooks. The resources are targeted toward the publishing field. Still, libraries and library staff can only benefit by learning how and what makes eBooks accessible.

    The information is summarized from Accessible Publishing’s Guide to Image Descriptions.

    Quick Facts

    The Guide to Image Descriptions resource outlines why image descriptions are essential and provides guidelines (with examples) on successfully creating image descriptions. Libraries can apply the information in this resource to any digital image – those used in social media posts, website images, book images in online library catalogues, and much more.

    Why is it important to provide image descriptions? Images descriptions provide people with print disabilities, which is 1 in 5 people in the Canadian population, access to the same information as everyone else!

    • The image descriptions guidelines in this resource are:
      • Decorative images (an image that does not convey any meaning and is only there to enhance a document/website visually) do not need to be described.
      • Write descriptions to have a clear structure, providing a general overview of the image before narrowing it down into the details.
      • Write descriptions based on the context of what surrounds the image (the text, intended audience, etc.)
      • Write image descriptions with the intended audience in mind!
      • Be concise with your image descriptions (you do not always need a complete sentence to describe an image).
      • To write engaging image descriptions, use present tense/action verbs.
      • Different screen readers pronounce abbreviations in different ways, so please spell them out and use MathML (for equations displayed as images).
      • Be objective in your descriptions (including accurately describing ethnicity, race, gender, disability, and age).
      • Do not censor the image you describe, even if it is sensitive content. People with print disabilities require equal access to information.
      • If there is text within an image, write it out in the description!
      • Please don’t rely on captions to provide information about an image. They may not describe the details!

    Visit the Guide to Image Descriptions

    References (2020). Guide to Image Descriptions. Web page. Retrieved from: