A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The digital age has offered myriad ways for taking, creating and sharing pictures and images.   A friend recently texted a photo of a sunset from Sedona, Arizona that was breathtaking. Another friend takes wonderful photos as she travels around upper East Tennessee, and they too are beyond words. There are those shared photos on Social Media that I love seeing, that help me stay in touch with friends far and wide.

Before instant access to photos became available, it became a part of one’s memory to relive those moments. The images were imprinted in our minds, and recalled by sharing experiences with others or when told in shared conversation. “It took my breath away” becomes a common theme, or “I was at a loss for words.”

For individuals with limited or no vision, it becomes a challenge then to describe those images and activities. Think about how to describe that sunset, or those fields in upper East Tennessee? Can they be rendered into text that gives someone access to that experience?

Once again, technology has a role to play in the emerging field of 3d printing. Several vendors are available to assist in creating tactile graphics. Piaf Tactile graphics can be printed on swell paper using a specialized device. http://www.piaf-tactile.com/index.html

A company in Italy is experimenting with creating 3d photographs. http://pirate3d.com/touchablememories/.

This is very cool, right? And other methods for creating 3d tactile images are available as well. Some images can be described easily enough in words. Others will require complex descriptions and may be better rendered in a tactile format.

It is easy to describe an image in Word.

  1.  Right click on the image.
  2. Select Format Picture from the drop down menu.
  3. Select the box with 4 arrows in it.
  4. Select ALT Text
  5. Give the image a title, and type your description.

So to get started simply, here are some additional tips from the “Web Accessibility MOOC for Online Educators”, 2014.

To ensure accessibility, all informational images need to be explained in real text somewhere in the document. That real text can be in the form of:

An ALT text description which is read aloud by screen reading software, but not seen on screen

A caption seen by all users and read by screen readers, that includes a description of the image’s significance.

A description in the surrounding paragraph text.

We advise faculty to write their documents so they are meaningful without images. Add the images to reinforce the text material. Then just add a brief ALT text description for reference purposes or a caption for all users’ benefit.

If images do add any new information to the text content, that information should be included in the ALT text or caption. If there is a photo of George Washington, for example, and the preceding text is addressing information about him, the ALT text of “image of George Washington” would be sufficient. If it is an image of the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware, the ALT text may need to describe what is seen in the photo as well as what information is important for the learner to understand.

One useful way to think about images in your online courses is to ask yourself the following question: Can all students obtain the necessary “accessible information” about the image through either a) the ALT text, b) the image caption, c) the surrounding text content, or d) a long description page? If not, then students with visual disabilities are at a disadvantage.

A common misunderstanding is that ALT text is what appears when you hover over an image.

So make sure to type your ALT text descriptions in the Description field, not the Title field in MS Word.


If it’s Digital, is it Accessible? Part 2: Word Documents with Text and Graphics

No one is type-setting any longer, in this digital age of desktop publishing.   Things like a novel, or a literature book, or any type of written work that doesn’t need to be described using figures or illustrations, graphs or diagrams, or symbols are relatively easy to convert.   If you cannot find a book in electronic […]