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Image Descriptions on Social Media from The Institute for EDI

Published: 06/20/2023

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(4/23/23) Learn about image descriptions and alt text- two important elements of accessibility when using technology.


I think I’ve seen image descriptions on Instagram posts before, what are they?


Image descriptions are short (usually around 300 characters) phrases that accompany photos explaining what appears in the picture(s). Image descriptions make your content more accessible, especially to those who may be blind or vision-impaired. Technology such as screen readers or braille computers can help people engage with websites and social media and will often utilize image descriptions in their content delivery.


Are image descriptions the same thing as alt text?


Image descriptions and alt text are similar, but not exactly the same. Image descriptions will appear in the text body, whereas alt text is visible when hovering over the image (if an image doesn’t load properly, you’ll see the alt text). Assistive technology is capable of utilizing both image descriptions and alt text. Alt text is shorter than image descriptions (125 characters or less). Both should be used when possible, on social media posts, websites, and anywhere images electronically appear (such as in PowerPoint presentations and other documents).


What makes a good image description? What about alt text?


For image descriptions, provide simple details about what appears such as the placement of objects, style of the photo(s), any prominent colors, names of humans or animals, clothing, emotions displayed, and general environment. Alt text should provide only the very basic details. Both image descriptions and alt text should include any text written on the image (such as signs or titles) exactly as it appears.


Alt text and image descriptions should not contain overly flowery/poetic language, emojis, or any text that is not directly relevant to understanding what is in the picture.


Can you give examples of image descriptions and alt text? 


Alt Text Example for Photo Below: Person with dress, smiling in front of a cherry tree at a park.


Image Description Example for Photo Below: 20-year old, Katie with shoulder-length brown hair and tan skin, stands smiling directly at the camera. They are wearing a brown dress with thin straps. Katie is in-focus standing in front of a cherry tree at Lincoln Park.



Source: How to Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the visually impaired - Perkins School for the Blind


To learn more about the Institute for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion at Chase Brexton Health Care, click here: The Institute for EDI | Chase Brexton Health Care