Incorporating Image Accessibility into Editorial Processes

There are several ways in which an editorial department can support the accessible and effective use of visual resources within publications. The editorial process, peer review, and the house style guide may all be used to promote visual resources that are well chosen, well placed, properly formatted, and effectively described.

Editorial Process

While editing a publication, consider the following questions regarding each visual resource:

  • Is it essential to the publication? Does it provide evidence, offer context, provoke a response, or represent something that is integral to the work and would alter the work by its absence?
  • Is it well chosen? Does the selection convey an appropriate amount of detail (i.e. would a full reproduction or a detail view be more appropriate)? When multiple selections are possible (works by an artist, photos from a series, page scans from a book), is the specific selection most effective in terms of the publication’s purpose and audience?
  • It is well placed? If inserted into a text section, image must be placed in a linear position at a natural linguistic and structural break—preferably between paragraphs, or between sentences.

If feasible and reasonable to do so, consider establishing an internal editorial guideline for a target number of images per chapter, according to type of publication.


Peer Review

If you use a questionnaire to structure peer review reports, consider including questions related to the use of visual resources within the publication. The above questions may serve as models.


House Style

If your press maintains a document for house style guidelines or author guidelines, consider including a section on images with information about visual resource accessibility.

In general, a section on images should set expectations for image format and quality, set guidelines for indicating image placement within the manuscript, and set expectations for image description.

The following statements may be used or modified as a model for discussing image description in a house style or author guideline:

In the print version of your book, visual resources will be reproduced faithfully and at the best possible quality.

In the electronic version of your book, images will be reproduced differently depending on reading technology, and may not be reproduced at all by some reading technologies, including text-to-speech software used by readers with print disabilities. For these situations, we require textual description of all images, whether in the body of the text itself, in captions, in supplemental accessibility information associated with each image (alt text and long description), or in some combination.

For guidance on writing effective description, as well as more information on the technical components of accessible images, see Guidelines for Describing Visual Resources in Arts and Humanities Publications.