Alt text for small-scale hiking maps

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Alt text for small-scale hiking maps thread
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GLEEditor

Hi everyone,

We’re looking at converting some of our hiking guides into accessible ePubs. Each trail description contains colour photographs (not a problem) and small-scale maps to help readers navigate the trail. I’m wondering what would be best practice in terms of image descriptions for the maps. I found a helpful webinar from Daisy that included some general notes on describing maps (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnXK7YfpN04&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fdaisy.org%2F&feature=emb_title), but it was mostly aimed at large-scale maps (e.g. a map of Europe, a geological map of the UK).

For a small-scale map (typically 1:10,000-1:25,000 scale) showing a hiking trail, would the best approach be to focus on the route the trail takes within the map and only broadly discuss other features noted on the map as they intersect with the trail? I’ve attached an example below. My approach would be to give the scale, describe where the trail is situated, give details of the trailhead (the yellow dot) and then describe how the trail goes up and down the Canal, describing points it passes such as the ballfields and toilet. I do not know how to approach the elevation chart.

Does it make a difference that the maps are intended as an accompaniment to an extensive description of the trail? The distance markers correspond to points mentioned in the trail description. I am wondering whether an alternative approach would be to not describe the image since the trail description gives directions and discusses landmarks along the way.

Thank you in advance for your help and advice,

Alan

P.S. Apologies for the misshapen image. The forum software appears to have squeezed it somewhat.

A map of a trail around Shubie Park in Halifax.

APLN Moderator

Hi GLEEditor,

Thank you for this interesting topic!

As with any image, it is important to keep the context in mind and evaluate its purpose before writing the description. What is the main purpose of the map and what is it trying to convey?

You asked:

Would the best approach be to focus on the route the trail takes within the map and only broadly discuss other features noted on the map as they intersect with the trail?

This seems like a good approach! You can begin with noting the name of the map (“Map of Shubie Park—Canal Path. […]”) then describe the path of the trail. As for the elevation graph, after describing the map and the trail, you can mention that an elevation graph is present at the bottom, then describe the relevant data points within.

For example: “An elevation graph is present below the map, measuring the trail between 0 and 2.5km on the x-axis, and 20-35 metres on the y-axis.” You can then mention the highest or lowest points, or whichever information is relevant to convey.

Moreover:

Does it make a difference that the maps are intended as an accompaniment to an extensive description of the trail? The distance markers correspond to points mentioned in the trail description. I am wondering whether an alternative approach would be to not describe the image since the trail description gives directions and discusses landmarks along the way.

If the text surrounding the map already details the trail path, steps, and graph data points, you can keep the alt-text for the image more succinct and not delve into great detail, as it is best to avoid repetition.

This article includes helpful examples for charts, graphs and maps: https://equidox.co/blog/beyond-basic-alt-text-charts-maps-and-diagrams/

Hope this was helpful!

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