An Unpopular Opinion: Img Descriptions on Social Networks


So, there is a growing audience of Facebook users who want their posts to be very accessible.  That is good!  Accessibility is important to me, as someone who claims to be a Section 508 specialist.

However, there’s a growing contingent of people who take it just a little too far.  They have good intentions, but they don’t need to.  They share a link.  Their social network platform adds a picture to it.  They do an image description for the picture that’s linked.

Princess Elsa from Frozen.

[img description: a woman, who is blonde with platinum blonde hair  with a loose fish tail braid* in front of a blue background with a snowflake about to fall into her hand, she has a sly look on her face, like she’s sure of herself.]

This is too much.  Here’s how I’d write the description most of the time:

No, that’s no typo.  I wouldn’t include an image description.  That’s because the image has no functional relationship with this text.  The picture isn’t important to the context.  If this picture was important to my post or the story I’m linking, I would type this:

[img description: princess elsa from frozen]

It doesn’t matter if it’s an official image, if it’s a drawing my 6-year old did, it doesn’t matter.  It’s a picture of Elsa.  That’s the context of the photo.  I don’t need to go into detail, unless I need to capture that level of detail for my post.

It’s kind of funny seeing people describe stock photography.

[img description: a funny man in a black suit and tie, holding a bright yellow banana.  He looks confused.]

This is not to say content providers shouldn’t provide descriptions for images (and that’s a whole story for another day how to do that correctly), but content sharers don’t need to do that, as 99% of the time, the picture is just presentational sheen.  It’s not important.  Don’t honor it with an image description – the content provider, if they did their job, should do that.

* – I don’t know what type of braid this is.


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