Describing Diagrams (STEM)
The Description of Science Content within Digital Talking Books
Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) often present a large amount of visual data - graphs, charts, tables and diagrams. Professionals and students who are blind or visually impaired always need ways to access these visual published materials used within their chosen fields. This, however, can be quite a challenge.
Captions included in documents usually give just a brief overview of an image. Also, people who volunteer to describe images included in talking books may give insufficient or excessive amounts of detail and Braille transcribers may not be experienced in transcribing STEM content.
National Centre for Alternative Media (NCAM) have undertook a 4 year research project with describers and students and scientists with visual impairments, to discover preferred methods of description of visual information. As a result, they have compiled their own set of guidelines for describing STEM images.
Examples of STEM visual data that NCAM's guidelines cover include:
- Bar Charts
- Line Graphs
- Venn Diagram
- Scatter Plot
- Pie Charts
- Flow Charts
- Standard diagrams and illustrations
- Complex diagrams and illustrations
Below is an example of NCAM's guidelines for describing a Pie Chart.
Table information converted from Pie chart using Guidelines.
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Pie charts should be converted into accessible tables.
It is not necessary to describe the visual attributes of the charts, e.g., red wedge, blue lines, etc., unless there is an explicit need such as an exam question referring to these attributes.
It is helpful to list the numbers from smallest to largest, regardless of how they are presented in the image.
Visit NCAM (external link) for more information on STEM description and NCAM webinars.