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Image Description Month

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

Image Description Month (October 2023)

You’re invited to take part in this month-long campaign that makes visual content from Wikimedia Commons, especially images, well described on the Wikimedia projects, by turning them more accessible, discoverable, connected, and usable in all languages.

This campaign will take place during the entire month of October 2023. You can participate by just adding your event to the table below. You don't need to ask to participate. Simply add your event below and we will promote it with the community and provide support in any way we can.

The Image Description Month is based on the previous Image Description Week, which happened from May 16 to 22, 2022.

Why does this matter?


One of the most significant internet trends has been the rise in image-led communication. Social media platforms are optimized for engagement and to maximize attention on both user-generated content and advertising. Since images have been found to drive attention, social media platforms have embedded tools to allow their users to more easily add and share images. [1] There are more than five million distinct images on English Wikipedia alone and research into reader interactions found that images on Wikipedia drive 10 times the engagement that citations do.[2] The same study concluded that readers use the images on page previews to decide whether to view a full article, and that readers are more likely to open the media preview of images on shorter or lower-quality articles. These findings suggest that Wikipedia readers use the images illustrating articles to fill information gaps.

Images on Wikipedia are used for more than just illustration, but less than half of them are contextualized by a caption that relates the image to the article, and only 10% have some form of alternative text (‘alt text’) that describes the visual content of the image for people with low or no vision. This is better than social media platforms like Twitter, where an estimated 0.1% of images have alternative text, but far from the 70% of images that are described with alt text on large commercial and news sites.[3] And other platforms are actively improving their alt text features. Most recently, Twitter implemented a prominent ‘ALT’ badge on images that have a description.

Our lack of image description not only limits the accessibility of content on Wikipedia, it also reduces the ease with which our open access images can be discovered through search. While Commons has grown into the world’s largest free-to-use media library—with more than 80 million illustrations, photos, drawings, videos, and music files—this media is not always easy to find and use, especially in languages other than English.

But it’s not a simple case of just writing more descriptions. The descriptions we write need to be useful and ethical. Image description can touch on sensitive aspects of appearance and identity that, if described inappropriately or incorrectly, could cause harm to people who are already marginalized by society.[4] We want Wikimedians, museum professionals, and accessibility experts to come together to develop shared practices for image description so that:

  • Editors reflect on how they select and interpret images in different contexts.
  • Organizers understand image description as a creative task that can advance social justice goals.
  • Image uploaders make their image contributions count.
  • More images can be discovered and understood in multiple languages.
  • People with diverse backgrounds and identities feel a sense of belonging in Wikimedia spaces.

By contributing well-described images under open licenses, we can address knowledge, representation and access gaps on the Internet, in the places where the most people are trying to meet their information needs—Google search and Wikipedia.



The Image Description Month can have workshops, edit-a-thons, trials of some the tools available, and other types of events. We hope that you'll be inspired to include image description in your own events in October 2023. If you do, add or share your session below. You don't need to apply or subscribe to organize an event, but please let us know at cultureandheritage(_AT_)wikimedia.org.

Day and time (UTC) Duration Description Language(s) Joining instructions Recording
Wednesday, October 4 - 14:00 UTC 1 hour
WikiWednesday @ IUPUI
Every month, IUPUI University Library and Wikimedians of Indiana User Group host a very casual interactive workshop for Wikimedia skills. This month we will cover image description topics, including Commons templates, structured data, depict statements, captions, alt text, etc., and making edits as a group. The typical audience for these events are librarians, but all are welcome!
English Join in person in Indianapolis, USA, or via Zoom No recording (in person event)
Thursday, October 5 - 11:00 am (COT) / 4:00 pm UTC 1 hour and 30 minutes
Seminario Abrir la Cultura y el Patrimonio - Momento 3 - Abrir las colecciones
Wikimedia Colombia is organizing a series of seminars about culture and heritage. In October, the third seminar will be about open collections and digitization projects.
Seminar objectives:
  • Bring participants closer to debates on the legal frameworks that regulate the collections of heritage institutions.
  • Get to know the equipment and dissemination processes for the digitization of heritage archives in Argentina and Latin America.
  • Use Wikimedia tools as means of access to Argentine cultural heritage.
Español Registration needed (closed). Recording available here
Thursday, October 12 - 11:00 am (COT) / 4:00 pm UTC 1 hour and 30 minutes
Seminario Abrir la Cultura y el Patrimonio - Momento 4 - Hacer visibles las colecciones
Wikimedia Colombia is organizing a series of seminars about culture and heritage. In October, the fourth seminar will be about how to make collections visible through metadata.
Seminar objectives:
  • Relate the possibilities of open data and cultural heritage.
  • Identify the potential of Digital Humanities in the open dissemination of knowledge and cultural heritage.
  • Expose the use of metadata for knowledge and exploration of cultural collections.
Español Registration needed (closed). Recording available here
Wednesday, October 25 - 17:00 UTC 1-2 hours
DPLA Network Coffee Chat
In this meeting, participants in the Digital Public Library of America's pipeline to Commons will share their experiences in contributing over 350,000 images from the Columbus Metropolitan Library's digital collections (via Ohio Digital Network aggregation). After the group discussion, attendees are invited to participate in an interactive group editing session to add images, captions, and depicts statements.
English Zoom meeting Recording available here
27 October - 1:00 PM - 3:00 UTC 2 hours
Image Description Month in India (SDC session)
The Image Description Month in India (SDC extra session) will be focused on Structured Data on Wikimedia Commons. This workshop is organized by Nitesh Gill and will be delivered by Giovanna Fontenelle (WMF) and translated by Satdeep Gill (WMF).
English & Hindi Registration and Google Meet link Recording available here
Friday, October 27 - 6 pm UTC 1 hour and 30 minutes
Transforming Biodiversity Heritage Library Images - Data Modeling with OpenRefine
In this event, participants from the OpenRefine Train-the-Trainer course and editors interested in biodiversity are invited to analyze, discuss, model, and work on preparing the metadata of some Biodiversity Heritage Library images that were available on Flickr. The goal is to make these files ready to be used during the TTT course starting in November and learn more about Structured Data on Commons.
English Zoom link Recording available here (Passcode: !m1g$&sj)
October 30 - 19:00 UTC / 16:00 ART 2 hours
Experiencias culturales accesibles. Del territorio a la pantalla.
Charla que aborda la accesibilidad como perspectiva transversal en los espacios culturales. Se recorrerán distintos recursos accesibles para personas ciegas o con baja visión para conocer sus procesos de producción y el impacto social que generan, haciendo foco en la audiodescripción o descripción de imágenes. Para ello, se alternarán conceptos con muestras de recursos accesibles producidos en territorio, bajo la modalidad presencial (como las salas de teatro, cine o museos) y otras realizadas desde la virtualidad, a través de las diversas pantallas (plataformas, redes sociales, páginas web).
Además, se habilitará una instancia de práctica e intercambio para que, a partir de pautas de audiodescripción, se puedan producir colectivamente textos alternativos en imágenes posicionadas en Wikipedia. Facilita esta propuesta junto a Wikimedia Argentina Gladys Benítez, guionista y narradora de audiodescripciones para series y películas. Integrante del programa TNC Accesible del Teatro Nacional Cervantes.
Spanish and English simultaneous interpretation Registration needed through this form Recording available here
For month of October One Month
Image Description Month in India (CIS-A2K session)
CIS-A2K is interested to do ahead with this activity in a collaborative way. The event will be focused on for each Indian language community to develop content on local Wikipedia, Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons.
Indian Languages Meta page link No recording (month-long event)
Por el mes octubre Un mes
Click a la escuela
Click a la escuela: En el marco del Día del Patrimonio 2023, Constructores de escuelas y liceos, Wikimedistas de Uruguay propone un concurso fotográfico para documentar los edificios escolares de todo el país.
La convocatoria estará abierta desde el 1° de octubre hasta el 31 de octubre. En este período, las personas interesadas en participar podrán subir fotografías de escuelas y edificios escolares a través de la herramienta WikiShootMe, que permite subir fácilmente fotografías con las coordenadas geográficas.
Español Registration needed here No recording (month-long event)

Editing tasks to make images more findable and accessible

Event flyer with title, date, time, and information about the guest, Gladys Benitez
Flyer for the Experiencias culturales accesibles: del territorio a la pantalla event organized by WMAR


  • Write a caption to contextualize the image within the article or section.
  • Add alt text to describe the visual content of the image.


  • Add an image to the relevant Wikidata item using the property image (P18).


  • Add a unique and descriptive title using plain language with spaces. If relevant, include the name of a person, place, or event. The first 20 characters will be shown on category pages, so put the most essential information there.
  • Add relevant structured data captions in as many languages as possible. This should be a short and simple description of the image. It will be saved as a Wikibase label and published under a CC0 (public domain) waiver.
  • Add a detailed description, describing what the file is about and any other relevant context. This is wikitext and can include mark-up.
  • Add the file to relevant categories. Use the most precise sub-category within each tree.
  • Add depicts statements for the items that are clearly visible in the image. Identify the main features of the image using the ‘mark as prominent’ option.
  • Nominate quality images, where appropriate.



Here are the challenges you can try straight away:

  1. Find images to describe on a campaign using the ISA Tool
  2. Verify the items shown in images, using Depictor
  3. Find relevant images depicting or related to the article you are editing or editing on Wikipedia by using the View it! tool and adding alt text and captions to them
  4. Write short captions for the winning images in last year’s Wiki Loves Monuments and Wiki Loves Earth campaigns on Wikimedia Commons
  5. Use the DepictAssist tool to add depicts statements to images on Commons from institutions part of the Digital Public Library of America network
  6. Revisit a Wikipedia article you recently edited, in any language, and check the alt text for the images. Can you improve them?

Interested participants


There can be a lot of confusion about the difference between captions, descriptions, alt text, and depicts forms of image description on our projects. If you want to work on defining these and providing good examples for people to follow, please add your name below. Simply add your username below and tell us what topics you're most interested in.

  • FRomeo (WMF): drawing on the visual literacy of museum staff, improving image accessibility
  • GFontenelle (WMF): I'm interested in all topics but especially alt text and depicts, to help improve image accessibility on the Wikimedia projects, so that people from diverse backgrounds can participate and images can be more discovered and understood in multiple languages.
  • Amuzujoe:I am interested in all topics for the betterment and proper explanation from me to people.
  • Medhavigandhi: interested in improving image accessibility and language for art and historical images on Commons; also visual literacy of museum staff!



Please add useful research papers, guidelines, and tutorials about image description.

Resource Format(s) Language(s)
Analyze a Photograph by National Archives Worksheet EN, ES
The Digital Image Guide (DIG) Method by Dana Thompson PDF EN
Guidelines for Image Description by Sina Bahram, Anna Chiaretta Lavatelli, and Cooper Hewitt Webpage EN
Veronica with Four Eyes alt text archives Webpages EN
Alt Text as Poetry workbook by artists Bojana Coklyat & Shannon Finnegan Website and PDF EN
Decolonizing the Internet's Structured Data by Whose Knowledge? Webpage EN
“It’s Complicated”: Negotiating Accessibility and (Mis)Representation in Image Descriptions of Race, Gender, and Disability by Cynthia L. Bennett and others PDF EN
Reimagine Descriptive Workflows: A Community-informed Agenda for Reparative and Inclusive Descriptive Practice by OCLC Webpages EN
Concadia: Tackling Image Accessibility with Descriptive Texts and Context by Elisa Kreiss, Noah D. Goodman, and Christopher Potts PDF EN
Estructurando datos para revertir brechas by Wikimedia Argentina Video ES
Texto alternativo: la guía definitiva by DALAT Desarrollo Accessible Latinoamericano Webpage ES
Modeling recommendations for the Digital Public Library of America's files on Wikimedia Commons Documentation page on Commons EN
#VisibleWikiWomen Lab: fostering multingual and decolonizing structured data narratives on Wikimedia Commons by Mariana Fossati and Sunshine Fionah Komusana of Whose Knowledge? Video EN


  1. Li, Y. and Xie, Y. (2019) Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? An Empirical Study of Image Content and Social Media Engagement Journal of Marketing Research
  2. Rama, D., Piccardi, T., Redi, M. et al. (2022) A large scale study of reader interactions with images on Wikipedia EPJ Data Sci. 11, 1
  3. Bennett, C. L., Gleason, C., Scheuerman, M. K., Bigham, J. P., Guo, A., and To, A. (2021) ‘‘It’s Complicated’’: Negotiating Accessibility and (Mis)Representation in Image Descriptions of Race, Gender, and Disability. CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21)
  4. Bennett, C. L., Gleason, C., Scheuerman, M. K., Bigham, J. P., Guo, A., and To, A. (2021) ‘‘It’s Complicated’’: Negotiating Accessibility and (Mis)Representation in Image Descriptions of Race, Gender, and Disability. CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21)