You are here

Adapting image-based materials


Image based resources tend not to create specific problems for learners with motor difficulties.

Difficulties are more likely to occur when:

  • Hard copy images require physical manipulation in order to understand them properly - for example the labelled image is on one page and the explanatory labels run overleaf, requiring the user to flick between pages.
  • Large hard copy images (e.g. maps) require physical dexterity in terms of folding, unfolding etc.
  • Images on screen contain hotspots requiring fine motor control.
  • Images on screen are larger than the screen space, requiring extensive scrolling.

Range of adjustments

Hard copy images with labels on a different page could be re-jigged using a photocopier so all the information is available on one page. Alternatively use an electronic version, adding pop-up screen tips.

With large images (such as maps) it may be possible to extract the key areas onto a smaller collated version using a photocopier.

Where supporting text information is extensive, use pop-up text over relevant parts of the image to save the user scrolling back and forwards. If mouse control is poor consider the use of Mousekeys or a tracker ball.

Information that pops up

Figure 1 -  label information that pops up in context when the mouse cursor moves over it. This avoids the difficulties of scrolling from image to text and back.

Technical and production issues

Pop up text can easily be inserted into Microsoft ® Office documents; see Accessibility Essentials – Writing Accessible Electronic Documents with Microsoft® Word.

Hyperlinks can easily be inserted to allow learners to access additional information. This is good for differentiation and can also support different learning styles. When using Microsoft ® Office documents, use the screen tip option to add information about where the hyperlink will take them. Motor impaired learners take longer to physically navigate pages so having enough information to know whether to follow a link can save them time.

Tool tips

Figure 2 - tool tips / screen tips on hyperlinks can (i) support literacy and (ii) help learners know whether they need additional information.

Similar pop up text can be created on web pages using the MAP and AREA tags where the ALT text provided for each AREA element becomes the pop-up text.

Screen capture software such as Gadwin PrintScreen or Snippy provide quick and effective ways to capture images from a variety of sources – e.g. web pages, existing documents, graphs in Excel etc. Staff training and awareness raising will be necessary to embed confident capture and use of images.

Mousekeys can help motor impaired learners replicate mouse movements using keystrokes only. They do however require the following to be in place:

  • A keyboard with a separate number pad or a separate usb number pad.
  • Technical teams to allow users to access the Accessibility Options in Windows.
  • Learners (and possibly their teaching staff) to be aware of how to set up and use Mousekeys.

Context of use

For many motor impaired learners, images present few problems as a consumer. Better still, images can provide an excellent accessibility solution as an active creator of content. Whereas a motor impaired learner might struggle to provide a written description of their learning they may find it far easier to take appropriate digital images to illustrate their competencies or their understanding.

Screen shots

Figure 3 - This learner is creating web pages as part of his course. Well chosen screen shots of progress can be every bit as informative as a written account.

There are a wide range of images that can be used with learners. Staff development may be needed to make staff aware of the possibilities – for example creating flow diagrams in PowerPoint or Word, creating graphs in PowerPoint, Word or Excel, taking and using digital images and creating simple animated gif images using Paint or PowerPoint and free animation software such as UnFreez.

Staff may need training on sources of images available on the web such as Flickr, Google image search etc. Staff will need to be aware of the risks as well as the opportunities; the risks include inappropriate content and copyright issues.

There are thousands of copyright cleared images available through JISC Collections and other educational and commercial collections.


Image based resources offer few difficulties to motor impaired learners but there may be issues of training for both staff and learners in order to fully exploit the potential of images.

Further links

Techdis Accessibility Essentials

For both general and technical guidance on the use of images see the JISC TASI website.

Further information and guidance