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Image Labelling for Accessibility (and SEO)

We live in a visual world. Images are used as shorthand all the time, and since the arrival of rapid internet access we communicate more than ever through photographs, gifs and emojis. Just take a look at your social media feeds and you will see them by the score.

emojis: inaccessible to the visually impaired

So imagine if you couldn’t see those images at all. That’s the day to day experience faced by millions of people with visual impairments. Your use of an animated gif to express surprise or amusement might literally be impossible for someone to understand – or even access.

Some of you might run a website – a blog, or even an online shop. Now imagine the experience of trying to navigate and use your site if every image was just a blank space on the page. That is the reality faced by many users of the internet.

But there is good news! The originators of the internet foresaw the need for inclusivity, and built a series of protocols into the coding behind the internet to support labelling of images. Not only that, but a raft of software has been developed to ‘read’ that code – often literally – for the benefit of visually impaired or blind users.

It is up to all of us to take advantage of this technology to make the world a little bit more accessible.

A happy side effect of taking accessibility into account is that Google’s spider is in effect like a ‘blind’ user of your site. It will take account of image labelling in its ranking of your site – and so it is important for SEO to make sure you follow these guidelines, even if you don’t aim your content at visually impaired people.

How it Works

When a visually impaired user visits your website or social media stream, the software they use is different to that used by the majority of us. In some cases, images are hidden altogether, and only tex

Webbie is the mostly commonly used screen reader

t is displayed – often in a high contrast colour scheme and at a much bigger scale. Too see how this affects the user experience, we recommend downloading WebbIE.

Where the eyesight is impaired to such a degree to make reading impossible however, users might be using screen reading software such as JAWS. This actually reads content aloud, or even try it translates it to Braille through a clever interface.

Before looking at what you do with your images, try downloading some of this software yourself to see how it works and understand exactly how different the internet is when shorn of the visuals so many of us take from granted.

General Principles

Before we get down to how to put text behind an image, it’s worth thinking about what it is we’re trying to convey. The general principle is to explain as much as possible about what is in the picture with clear and comprehensive descriptions that make sense within the context of the piece.

For example, lots of articles use photographs of people simply wearing emotional expressions to add a kind of ‘feeling’ to the accompanying piece: perhaps a pensive-looking man, or a happy couple.

These might not be essential to the content but lend useful context. Descriptions should therefore convey the meaning of these images and reflect this context: “A pensive looking man, reflecting the way in which people are affected by this issue”, for example.

The alt attribute as seen in HTML codeYou do not need to say “a picture of” at the start of the description as the software or user will be able to determine this for themselves.

Some photographs are more specific. A good example would be product photography if you’re looking to sell goods or services. A great description would include dimensions, colour, and function of the product: “The Trabasack Curve. This is an all in one wheelchair lap tray, travel bag and lap desk. It is 30cm wide and 28cm deep. It comes in black or purple trim, and fastens to any surface with Velcro fastenings” for example.

Each case is very different, so it is up to you to spend the necessary time to craft detailed descriptions that would offer the most help to your site visitors.

HTML sites

If you are writing your own code (or have a web developer working on it) then the most of the legwork is handled by two attributes:

  • The Alt attribute
    This is a concise description of the image and should convey everything that a user might need to know about an image . If you are not visually impaired yourself, and don’t use a screen reader, you can see what this is by hovering your mouse over an image. If an alt attribute exist, you will see a ‘tool tip’ style note . Full guidelines are available here.
  • The Longdesc attribute
    While no longer supported by some modern browsers, this attribute gives you the opportunity to link to a longer, more detailed description of the image. Again, guidelines for use are available here.

Social Media

The two major social media sites – Facebook and Twitter – support accessible labelling of images, and you should pay regard to their own guidelines and the tools they have made available for you to deliver great accessible content.

  • Twitter’s guidelines can be viewed here.
  • Facebook’s guidelines are here.

For other sites such as LinkedIn and Tumblr, it is unfortunate that there are no native ways to support accessibility. When posting images on these sites, you should give all necessary context in the text accompanying them.

Top Four Packaging Openers and Safety Cutters

Top Packaging Openers and Safety Cutters


Using a purpose made safety cutter makes opening those eagerly awaited mail order products so much quicker and safer! We’re buying more online than ever before and with online shopping comes box after box of not always well-wrapped goodies. Getting packages open is not easy at the best of times and it can be highly problematic if you have a disability which effects your limbs, grip, fine motor skills or coordination. Here we’re looking at some gadgets designed to make ripping open boxes and getting to your goodies easier than ever before, with an eye on their suitability for disabled people.

Many of the package openers on the market are utility tools which can be used around the home in other ways. Many cutters double up as kitchen tools, can be used for cutting ties off clothes, couponing, arts and crafts and much more.

iSlice Safety Cutter

Image shows the elongated, oval shaped safety slicer in a soft green colourThe iSlice Safety Cutter features a ceramic blade, which is quick, easy and safe to use. The device is a complete replacement for scissors and traditional safety knives. It can be used for removing film, shrink wrap or difficult moulded plastic packaging. It is also magnetised and has a built-in keyring hole making it portable and easy to use on the go.


Westcott Box Opener

Once again featuring a ceramic blade, this Westcott Utility Cutter benefits from a durable and robust design. Ceramic lasts up to 10 times longer than stainless steel so it makes for a long-lasting blade. The compact size of this box opener makes it a popular choice and the fixed blade and finger loop help when guiding and controlling the blade.


Zibra Open-It!

Image shows the red-coloured Zibra Open-it on a white backgroundSold as a product which relieves the stress of “wrap rage”, the Zibra Open-It is a strong utility cutter. It can slice through hard packaging as well as paper and plastic, easily breaking through twist ties and zip ties. It has additional functionality allowing it to pop bottle caps and unscrew bottle caps.






Nimble: The One-Finger Package Opener – Our Top Pick!

Yellow thimble shaped rubber cutting tool

Nimble Safety Cutter

Topping our list of package openers is the Nimble. This smart and unique device stands out because of its accessible design. Using just a single finger, this device makes it easy for people with a range of disabilities to easily cut and slice as required. A single finger swipe can cut open a box, food packaging or any other item, without any risk of injury. The safe blade profile offers no risk of injury and it the one-finger operation design (patent pending) means even if you have limited hand mobility, you should be able to properly use and benefit from the Nimble.

The Nimble package opener is suitable for people with joint paint, little hand strength, tremors and reduced hand-eye coordination, as well as in many other situations. The device was developed and tested by over 150 people, some with disabilities, some without and the result is this effective and well-designed cutter for many different items in the home.

Safe on the skin

A unique benefit of the Nimble is the small blade means it is very difficult to hurt yourself. It is so small that the ridges of your skin ridges actually move out of the way and it doesn’t cut you. I know it sounds incredible but it is probably the safest cutter on the market today. This makes it particularly useful for anyone with dexterity problems. The bright yellow colour is also a boon for those with a visual impairment.



You can see exactly how the Nimble works in this useful video:

Order your nimble directly from Amazon here




Geco Hub Flexible Wall Mounted Storage Kickstarter Project

Scroll to the bottom for the latest updates on Geco Hub and their Kickstarter campaign!

At Living with Disability we are constantly on the lookout for new innovations and inventions which could be used to make living with a disability easier. We support universal and design for all ideas that can be used freely or may be particularly useful for disabled people. Geco Hub is an innovative storage system solution which is currently looking for funding through Kickstarter. We are supporting Geco Hub and it’s creator Simon Lyons as we think it is a fantastic looking design .

What is Geco Hub? “A home for things without a home”

This video is the best place to start to give you an idea of what Geco Hub is and what it can offer:

It is the brainchild of Simon Lyons and his company Version 22 and they’re looking for £35,000 through Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. The Kickstarter is due to end on 24th April 2014.

Geco Hub up Close

Geco Hub

A range of Geco Hub elements

Geco Hub is extremely easy to use and fit into your home in any way you see fit. It can be simply mounted to any surface using screws or adhesive pads and you can even fit it in places where drilling is impossible.

It can be assembled by hand in a few short minutes and the flexible components used to hold your items in place can be bought in a number of bright and innovative colours, one of the key things which makes them an ideal option for people living with visual impairments.

The Geco Hub system also benefits from being easily expandable. Each standard unit is 5×5 but other units of the same size can be added to create a larger storage space. Each unit uses its own elements to hold things in place with no need pins reducing the risk of stab injuries as well as damage to paper items.



This handy GIF shows off some of the different variations of Geco Hub you could try.


As the photo below shows the Geco Hub isn’t just for light, paper items though and it can hold a huge amount despite its seemingly small size:

Geco Hub

The Geco Hub holds a range of heavy items

Geco Hub for Disabilities

The Geco Hub has a wide range of different uses for people living with disabilities. The bright design is ideal for people who have visual impairments but equally its wall positioning makes it easier for finding things which can be a problem when they’re laid flat on a table surface.

It’s also a great option for people who have joint pain or problems and find bending down difficult. Storing all important items at eye level means they can be reached for without needing to bend or stretch uncomfortably.

The Geco Hub is also an easy to position storage device which could be perfect for wheelchair users keeping all those key items within easy reach. Rather than standing eye level the Geco Hub could be easily placed at reach-level whilst seated.

British Design and Production

Geco Hub

Geco Hub – Made in Britain

As supporters of British design above all we are pleased to see that Geco Hub is committed to using high quality suppliers in the UK which we definitely see as a hugely positive commitment for British industry.

The Geco Hub idea has been brewing away in the mind of its inventor since 2010. During Simon’s time at university and on graduation he has been dedicated almost solely to preparing the product to be ready for a launch on  Kickstarter and we wish him every success with achieving the total need to fund the project.

Geco Hub interview on BBC Radio

Simon had a really interesting  interview on the radio that gives some more background and information about the product.

The many benefits of this item means we simply had to support it.  We hope it goes on to be as successful as the  Sensory Stories project we backed last year. We hope our involvement may go some way in pushing Geco Hub closer to its target. So if you want to be part of this exciting project, dig deep and get on board and be one of the first people to own a Geco Hub!

Visit the Geco Hub Kickstarter page here

GecoHub Update

Geco Hub Phone Charging Station

Geco Hub Phone Charging Station

Unfortunately the first attempt by Version 22 and Geco Hub on Kickstarter wasn’t a success but this hasn’t got them down – in fact they’re back for more and relaunching their Kickstarter attempt today: 29th July 2014!

The product has been updated, there have been changes and new developments but the core principles of the product remain the same, as they say themselves:

A lot has changed since the first time around but Geco Hub’s core benefits aren’t among them. Every step of the way along the path from the last campaign to this one I have taken the utmost care to ensure that Geco Hub is just as easy to assemble, install and use as it ever was and that only the best materials for the job are used. In fact, through doing all of this Geco Hub is now better than ever!


At Living with Disability we are still 100% behind Geco Hub and are very hopeful that this time they’ll receive everything they need to produce their versatile storage system. It is such a versatile development that can benefit people from people of all walks of life and we want it to be out there for sale for anyone who wants it! There’s even a new video showing off its perks:

We hope you get behind the campaign and to find out more visit their brand new Kickstarter campaign page: