Are there guidelines for describing STEM images within digital talking books?

Date Updated

Yes, WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media has published guidelines for describing STEM images for use within digital talking books and on web sites.

A significant amount of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) information is presented visually, from graphs and tables to diagrams and math equations. Students and professionals in the STEM fields who are blind or have low vision must find methods of accessing this data. In many cases, they rely on assistants to read and describe images in order to stay current with content in their fields of study. Access to text through electronic files and digital talking books has made possible a great deal of independence for these individuals.

Effective Practices for Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books is the result of a 4-year effort that included multiple surveys with describers and with students and scientists with vision loss and research of preferred practices for description of visual information in textbooks and journals. WGBH's Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) undertook this research with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF, grant # 04535663).

The new guidelines include descriptions of a variety of information types, including bar charts, line graphs, Venn diagrams, tables, pie charts, flow charts and complex diagrams and illustrations. A resource section is also included, providing links to many organizations, tools and standards which all contribute to generating more accessible STEM materials.