Audio Description

My last post focused on alt text, image description for web sites and social media posts. In this post, I will discuss audio description for videos and performances.

The Ultimate Guide to Audio Description explains it this way.

“Audio description is an audio track that narrates the relevant visual information in media. Audio description assumes that the viewer cannot see, and therefore depicts the key visual elements that are necessary to understanding the content as an accommodation for blind and low vision viewers.”

Audio description was developed for live theater performances in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, WGBH began offering audio description for television shows under the brand name Descriptive Video Services (DVS).

When media is described, narration is added during the natural pauses in the dialogue of the original content.

The YouTube video linked from this post is an excellent example of audio description. The narration in the opening sequence includes the film location and describes the action—a speeding race car that crashes.

This video, released by PBS American Masters in July 2021, is titled “Kitty O’Neil: Deaf racecar driver, daredevil and stunt legend” More than 50 percent of the production team are people with disabilities including the producer, writer/director, and show host.

Watch Kitty O’Neil: Deaf racecar driver, daredevil and stunt legend

To learn more, visit the Audio Description Project. This site hosts a searchable database of described videos. If you want to produce your own described content, you can read their guides explaining the process, or you can browse lists of companies offering description services in English and in other languages.