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Thanks to Those Who Offer Visual Description

November 15, 2017


A Month–Not Just a Day–of Thanks:


Week 3.  Very Thankful to Those Who Offer Visual Descriptions



During this third week of my traditional series for the month of November on this Wordwalk blog, my gratitude for those who offer visual description is at the top of the “Thank-you List.”  Having photographs, videos, scenery and costumes of theatrical productions, nature, decor, my guide dogs, etc.,  described to me with word pictures enriches my life.  Having construction areas and other work areas on sidewalks, in crosswalks, at intersections, and in public buildings aptly described to me increases the confidence and safety for my guide dog and me as we strive to maintain a high degree of independent mobility.  With these descriptions in mind, I am abundantly grateful to my sister (whom I call the “Describer-in-Chief”), other family members, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers who have offered to me their visual descriptions.  Of course, when I was younger and my parents were still living, they gave me their best efforts with visual description.  While I appreciate the services of professional describers for Descriptive Video Services (DVS) and other such entities, my gratitude today happily goes to all of the “volunteer describers” who have touched and enhanced my life.  Through their descriptive words, my world becomes filled with colorful images again.


In conjunction with this “altitude of gratitude,” I share, below, a lengthy article of description which David Dvorkin, of DLD Books, posted on my author’s web page last week.  Do you think the description is too much or just right?  Does the following description assist you with being able to describe a photo to an individual who is blind or visually impaired?  (Please leave a comment on this post or e-mail me.)



Detailed Descriptions of Photos


for Blind and Visually Impaired Readers


of The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season



If you are a blind or visually impaired reader who may be wondering about the photographs used in my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, this article includes verbal descriptions of the cover photo, the two photos inside the book, and the photo on the back cover.  While all four photos are in full color in the e-book, only the cover and back cover photos are in full color in the print book.  Thus, in the print version, although the two inside photos are in gray tones, I will give full-color descriptions.




The festive cover of my holiday book (six inches by nine inches) has a white border that frames the cover photo.  In the top portion of the border, the title, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, is in burgundy print that has a very thin black outline for each letter.  Centered below the cover photo, in the white border, is my name, Alice Jane-Marie Massa, in forest green print.  On either side of the cover photo is three-fourths inch of the white border.


Framed with a thin burgundy line, the cover photo is a snowy scene on a street in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  In the foreground is a horse-drawn carriage.  Amazingly, the black horse has a star blaze–just like the horse in the title short story.  The carriage is winter white with a burgundy seat for the driver who is wearing a burgundy coat with a hood, as well as winter white scarf and gloves.  In the background are two bare trees, two green lampposts, and four stories of a red-brick  building. Behind the carriage is a tall Christmas tree with a dusting of snow on its boughs; the large tree is decorated with red poinsettias, red balls, and lights.    Due to the snowy weather conditions, the carriage is topped with a canopy.  On the right side of the photo, an inch or two of snow accumulation is visible while the upper left of the photo shows the typical Milwaukee gray sky.


Professional photographer Cindy Lesky took the cover photo.  (Read more about Ms. Lesky on this author’s page and via the link to her website.  Also, please read the article about how this perfect photograph for my book cover was found.)


Inside Photo #1:  Dedication Photo


On the page opposite the Dedication Page is a photograph of my third Leader Dog, Zoe.  The caption is “Leader Dog Zoe, at home on Christmas, 2014.”    Beautiful Zoe, a Black Labrador/Golden Retriever Mix, is lying on the beige carpeting of the living room of our townhouse.  One of her many favorite toys, a plush reindeer, is lying beside her.  Behind Zoe–who is black, except for her brown eyes–is an end table covered with a red tablecloth.  Atop the tablecloth is a festive Christmas clock, ceramic music box  of Santa kneeling at the crib of the Baby Jesus, and a small gift-wrapped box.  To the right of the end table, a little of Zoe’s living-room bed and a part of another bookcase are in the background.  While one of her front paws reaches toward the bed, my guide dog’s other front paw is tucked under a portion of her leg with the reindeer toy nestled nearby.  To the left of the end table is the edge of a wooden bookcase.  Zoe’s head is up and looking to her right.  Since Zoe is relaxing at home, she is wearing only her collar with tags–not her working harness and leash.


My sister, Mary E. Massa Fanyo, took this photo of Zoe.


Inside Photo #2:  Bio Photo


After the conclusion of my bio is a photo of me with my current Leader Dog, Willow.  At a park in Rochester, Michigan, Willow and I are standing in front of a wooden bridge with deciduous trees filling the background of this photo, taken in June of 2016, when Willow and I were training together at Leader Dog School.  While I am holding onto Willow’s harness handle and leash, she, a Black Labrador Retriever, is tilting her head slightly and looking directly at the photographer–Christie Bane, GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor).    Wearing a turquoise blazer with matching slacks, I have my dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail.  Also in the background , green grass and the path are a small part of the picture.  On this warm June day, Willow and I had a wonderful “nature walk.”  This photo’s caption reads:  “Alice and her fourth Leader Dog, Willow, are at the bridge to a new season of life together.”


Back Cover


On the back cover, below a three-fourths-inch, white border is the photograph of my third Leader Dog, Zoe.  Below the photo is the caption:  “Leader Dog Zoe, Christmas, 2015”; below the caption is the blurb for my book.  My statuesque Black Labrador/Golden Retriever is sitting in front of an end table covered by a white and light blue tablecloth with a design of dancing snowmen.  Atop the tablecloth are a plush and smiling snowman (height of fourteen inches), a ceramic sleigh, and a “Joy” photo frame.  To the left of the end table, a wooden bookcase displays a red Christmas stocking, on the white cuff of which is printed “Zoe Zita.”  To the right of the end table is another wooden bookcase with a holiday ornament and a snowman stocking.  In front of this bookcase, the photo shows part of Zoe’s living-room bed.  In this Christmas photo, Zoe (who is not wearing her harness and leash) tilts her head a little as she looks directly at the camera.  Near Zoe’s paws is one of her favorite toys.


My sister, Mary E. Massa Fanyo, also took this photo of my precious, practically perfect, and beloved Zoe.


Please Share Your Comments!


If you liked reading these descriptions of the photos, please send me an e-mail at:

I would greatly appreciate your feedback concerning the amount of detail you prefer in photo descriptions.




Many thanks to my sister who provided me with her very detailed descriptions of these photos so that I could write this article for some of my readers.  Mary, you are the “Describer-in-Chief!”


Best Wishes from Wisconsin!

Alice Massa and Leader Dog Willow


November 7, 2017, Tuesday

posted on WORDWALK on November 15, 2017, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Fran Rayce permalink

    Thanks, Alice, for helping those of us who would like to assist in the best way possible but were not sure how to do that. Your examples give specific hints on which details should be noted and mentioned. Thank you for raising our awareness. And a happy Thanksgiving to you and Willow!

    • Hi, Fran–Many thanks for your comment and the Thanksgiving wishes.

      Best wishes to you and your family for a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING

      Alice and Willow

  2. mfanyo permalink

    Thank you, Alice, for the title of “Describer-in-Chief”–I am honored. While you may benefit from my descriptions, I have found that by describing what I see to you I gain in-depth understanding as well. For example, when we have visited the Milwaukee Art Museum and I have described works of art to you that were not recorded, I realized that I actually examined the art more closely to give you an accurate and interesting description. In doing that, I enriched my own experience with the art. So I appreciate the opportunities you have given me to be more observant and to express more precisely what I see.
    Love, Mary

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