Do you have a social media account? Then this blog post is for you!
What’s with the image descriptions on my socials?
You might have noticed I’ve recently made a big effort to do image descriptions on my photos on social media. Wait! Are you even following me on social media?!
I describe what the photo looks like in each post.
They’re for people who can’t see the image – they might use a screen reader (reads out text to them) or just want the image described.
I used to do this in my old comms job at a disability NFP, but wasn’t doing it on my own social media. I realised that my audience probably needs image descriptions and I want to be a good ally to people with different accessibility needs. Plus, I talk about access in my work so I really do need to walk the talk. So I have really been trying. Usually I’m straight forward but sometimes I’m cheeky and add some humour into it.
And image descriptions improve accessibility and SEO – if you’re into that . How great that image descriptions improves your reach AND provides inclusivity and accessibility to disabled people? Savvy AND altruistic!
it doesn’t cost any money to write image descriptions – only a little time – and once you get good at them, it will be quick sticks.
Plus, writing them makes you focus on what’s happening in the image.
The good news?
You don’t even need to be disabled to provide them! Just by writing them on your social media posts and web content, you’re making a whole new audience feel welcome at your space of the Internet.
What do image descriptions look like?
They are a short description in the body of text that accompanies an Image on social media. You might want to put the image description in the first comment – and state that in the body of the text. I usually preface the description with ‘Image:’.
Here is an example of an image description on one of my Instagram posts.
I posted this photo.
The text underneath the photo was:
“One of my usual poses. Laughing. Thanks for capturing this @prod.haus2. My dress is @witcheryfashion. 💛 Image: woman wearing long flowing yellow floral dress, standing with her hands on hips in front of a bright blue wall. Her face is red and her hair is short, dark and curly. She is looking to the side and laughing.”
Why do I say that my face is red in my image descriptions?
A few people have questioned – and been uncomfortable with.- me describing my face being red? (Yes the question mark was on purpose. Huh?)
Why do I do this?
Because my face is red. Because it’s factual. Because I’m not ashamed. Because I see disability as part of my identity. I describe other people as white or brown or black, or sitting in a wheelchair or with grey hair, so why shouldn’t I describe mine or others’ appearance? (And why are they uncomfortable?!)
How to describe an image:
Explain what you see to another person. Write simply, with as much or as little detail as you think is needed.
Look at the picture. Note what you see.
What colour is the person’s face? Is their hair long or short? Are they standing or sitting? Smiling? How are their arms positioned? What’s around them? What are they wearing? Are they looking at the camera or away?
What colour is the sky? How many sheep are there? Is the grass green or dying? Is the sea wild?
Is there a table with text? Is there a graph or chart?
Describe all of those elements in your image description.
It’s also advised to ask people how they want to be described – especially in terms of gender and race – when writing an image description. I often ask people to write their own image descriptions – if they are doing a guest Instagram post – for example. This means they are comfortable with how they’re described (and will hopefully do image descriptions on their posts!). If you are describing someone else, ensure you are using the correct gender pronouns – she/her, he/him, they/them or other pronouns as preferred.
If you are describing a group of people, and know their names and roles, you could note these in the image description.
If you are starting out with describing yourself, and are unsure about how much to describe, describe what you’re comfortable with. Skin colour, body shape and size, hair length, height, gender, and distinguishing features such as a facial difference or disability may be attributes you’re not comfortable with talking about – or you might be very comfortable with. They also set you apart from others – and give people a good indication of what you look like. If you are comfortable to do so, describe all or a few of these features.
When describing text, include the whole quote in the description.
Have you got a large body of text that you’ve screen shot and shared on social media – like a press release? Before you post it, copy the text from the original source and paste it into the body of the social media post. Or upload it into Online OCR, copy the text it spits out, proof read and edit, and paste where the text needs to go. Then write a preface, and upload the image. Easy!
Here’s an example – it’s a book review from Book Riot. I copied and pasted the original text for this, but if I wasn’t able to, I would have used Online OCR.
Logos can be complex because they’re often made up of lots of shapes and colours and fancy fonts. As with describing phots, look at the logo closely and note what you see. Describe the colours and shapes and text as best as you can – you can even state that the logo is made up of abstract shapes.
Here is an example I did at work.
Image: woman with red face and short dark curly hair that’s tied back, standing in front of a large beige building. The woman is wearing a purple tinsel jacket, black top and colourful headband, and a crescent and star brooch in the middle of her top. The grass is very green. A blue Melbourne Fringe banner hangs on the building. The banner is as follows: Four pillars of Trades Hall, coming from dark grey concrete steps, supported by a horizontal lintel beam. ‘Trades Hall” is written, raised above the lintel. In front of the beams is a person, standing side on, with their arm and fist raised in the air. The person is covered in lots of orange, pink and grey flags. The sky is blue. Next to the pillars is the We Are Fringe logo. We Are Fringe is written in big white capitalised text. The text appears to be moving (but is static) – ‘WE Are FR’ slopes in a wave shape, and ‘INGE” is straight. On the right is Melbourne Fringe’s logo – in thin white text. “Melbourne” is in a quarter crescent shape, curved around FRINGE – each letter is a different size and proportion. The F is at the top, then R slightly above IN, E is immediately below the IN, and G is to the left of the E. At the bottom of the banner is a thin black rectangle, and white Creative Victoria and City of Melbourne logos are in the bottom right.
Using image descriptions in events
When presenting at an event, or on TV or a video, you can image describe yourself verbally – in audio description form. Use the tips above to say what you look like, and ask other people do do the same for themselves too. Describe the surroundings as well. Eliza Hull and her guests did this at Isol-Aid recently, and it was great!
Learn more about Audio Description at Description Victoria.
Twitter has an inbuilt image description function, and you can write them in the captions field on Instagram and Facebook.
Here’s how to caption videos on Facebook if you want to go a step further.
More info – including how to write your own image descriptions:
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