Audio description

Audio description refers to an additional narration track for blind and visually impaired consumers of visual media (including television and film, dance, opera, and visual art). It consists of a narrator talking through the presentation, describing what is happening on the screen during the natural pauses in the audio, and sometimes during dialogue if deemed necessary.[1]

For the performing arts (theater, dance, opera), and media (television, movies and DVD), description is a form of audio-visual translation, using the natural pauses in dialogue or between critical sound elements to insert narrative that translates the visual image into a sense form that is accessible to millions of individuals who otherwise lack full access to television and film.

In museums or visual art exhibitions, audio described tours (or universally designed tours that include description or the augmentation of existing recorded programs on audio- or videotape), are used to provide access to visitors who are blind or have low vision. Docents or tour guides can be trained to employ audio description in their presentations. Audio description of sporting events is now becoming more common, in particular at soccer stadiums.

Researchers are working to show how description, through its use of varied word choice, synonyms, metaphor and simile, not only benefits children who are blind and others who have learning disabilities but can also boost literacy for all children.



In early 2009, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) established the Audio Description Project (ADP) to boost levels of description activity and disseminate information on that work throughout the United States and worldwide.

With respect to description and media, broadcast systems in Canada and the United States are transmitted digitally and access to description on the former SAP secondary audio program channel is no longer available. Ideally, it is now possible to access multiple streams of audio, e.g., Spanish translation, audio description, audio description in Spanish, etc. However, in the United States there is, at this writing, no standard for the use of a particular audio stream for the description audio. In addition, consumers who are blind or visually impaired face the accessibility obstacle of having to turn the description track on and off using visual menu systems they can't see.

Similarly, the limited number of DVDs available with description in North America (less than 100--as compared to over 500 in the U.K.United Kingdom) is further complicated by the lack of an audio menu on no more than a handful of those DVDs.

Broadcast audio description in the U.K. is delivered on a separate track, making it possible to adjust the AD volume separately from that of the audio from the television programme. However most people receive audio description via digital satellite television or cable television. Consumers can simply select audio description (or Narrative) via the menus on a set-top box. On satellite television and cable television the AD soundtrack is pre-mixed - the traditional way of experiencing description through TV.[2]

In August 2009, BBC iPlayer became the first video on demand service to offer Audio Description.[3]

In movie theaters, audio description can be heard using DVS Theatrical and similar systems (including DTS-CSS and Dolby Screentalk). Users listen to the description on a wireless headset.

See also


External links

Examples of audio description

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