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Describing Images for Enhanced Assessments
Introduction to Image Description

Many students find it difficult to understand the pictures, charts, diagrams and tables that are included in the tests that they take at school. This project studied methods of describing this information to make it easier to understand the visual information.

We used a style of description designed to give the student the information they need to answer a question on a test without adding too much time to the process. These included descriptions of pictures, drawings, diagrams, charts, math, tables, dictionary entries, tables of contents and more. All of the descriptions were recorded.

Note: Recorded description is familiar to most students who currently use image description. However, as textbooks, assessments and other school materials become increasingly digital, image description will be delivered as a combination of digital text, data tables and nested lists. This digital delivery of image description has been shown to be preferred and superior to recorded image description. In the professional development section of this website, both methods are provided. Read more about research that supports digital image description.

1. Simple Drawing

Listen to image description of a simple drawing.
Text of description:
A drawing shows a squirrel sitting on a tree branch, a bear standing beside a river and a fish swimming in the river.

2. Dictionary

Questions that include information from a dictionary, thesaurus or glossary were read exactly as they appear. For example, the word may be followed by its part of speech, a definition, synonyms, antonyms and a sentence.

Listen to image description of a dictionary entry.
Text of description:

Dictionary entry
rhyme, noun. poetry in which lines end with like sounds. Synonyms: alliteration, beat, cadence. Many people think that a poem should rhyme.

rhythm, noun. beat, pattern of sound, music. Synonyms: cadence, flow, meter, tempo. Her rhythm is so good; she could be a drummer.

3. Table

The title was read followed by the top row which usually contained column headings. Next, each row was read across, left to right. If the table was complex there would be a lengthier description of the table. Usually, the headings were not repeated as each row is read out loud.

Listen to image description of a table.
Text of description:
A table titled: Number of Box Tops Collected by Central School.
Each class is listed followed by the number of box tops collected in Week 1 and then in Week 2.
Mr. Smith 25, 27
Mrs. Jones 13, 30
Ms. Pepper 40, 20
Mrs. Rachel 18, 35

4. Bar Chart

Diagrams such as bar charts, line graphs and pie charts were described similarly to tables. Unless necessary to answer the question, the description did not include purely visual information such as the color of bars in a bar graph, the size of wedges in a pie chart, whether lines in a line graph are solid or dashed.

Listen to image description of a bar chart.
Text of description:
A bar chart measures the types of cars in the school parking lot:
Compact: 12
Station Wagon: 6
Sports Car: 3
Sedan: 9

5. Table of Contents

Tables of contents and indexes were described as they appeared. The word "page" or "pages" were used when reading chapter headings or index headings but not for each entry.

Listen to image description of a table of contents.
Text of description:
Table of Contents
Chapter One, Text Books, pages 3 to 15
Science, 5 to 7
Math, 8 to 10
English Language Arts 11 to 13
Chapter Two, Homework, pages 16 to 29
Daily Homework 20 to 23
Weekly Projects 23 to 26
Chapter Three, Testing, pages 30 to 41
Quizzes 32 to 35
Exams 36 to 40

6. Blanks

Test items may include sections that are left blank or empty and are intended for the student to fill in. These were identified by the word "blank."

Listen to image description of an image that included blanks.
Text of description:
Which symbol correctly completes this equation?
2 blank 2 equals 4.
Answer choices: plus, minus, divided by, multiplied by.

7. Outline

Lists, outlines and concept webs were described as nested lists using the words heading and subhead to indicate their organization.

Listen to image description of an outline.
Text of description:
An outline titled: The New Art Museum
Header 1. Exhibit Halls
Sub Head A. Classical
Sub Head B. blank
Sub Head C. Contemporary
Header 2. Public Spaces
Sub Head A. Big Theatre
Sub Head B. Small Theatre
Sub Head C. Classroom

Funding for this project is from the U.S. Department of Education to the Utah State Office of Education under Grant Award #S368A090019. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations are those of the project team and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education.