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What Is Audio Description?

What Is Audio Description?

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Audio Description. Image of chalkboard with the words I hear you, I see you. This image is used to illustrate the article “What Is Audio Description?”. Pexels license: https://www.pexels.com/photo/chalkboard-with-i-see-you-i-hear-you-titles-4966533/

Audio description, also known as video description, is a service that provides additional verbal narration to supplement a program’s existing audio. This narration describes the visual content of the program, including actions, settings, costumes, and facial expressions. This allows visually impaired individuals to experience the program fully and enhances the viewing experience for all viewers.

Have you ever watched a movie or television show and struggled to fully understand what was going on? Maybe you missed visual cues or details that were crucial to the plot. Or perhaps you are visually impaired and have been unable to fully enjoy the experience of watching your favorite shows or films. Fortunately, there is an emerging technology that can help with both of these issues: audio description.

Please take a moment to visualize the below description, as if you were reading it from a book:

A bright light arcs over a fairy tale castle at sunset, trailing glittering pixie dust. 

Disney 100.

Towering waves churn misting the air with sea spray.

Below the surface fish dart behind an assortment of colorful corals and langerous turtles gently flap their flippers

A mermaid dives down to ashadowy shipwreck on the ocean floor. The scales of her iridescent tail glimmering. The Twisted strands of her long red hairflowing down her back.

Inside the wreckage something glints, andAriel appears around a worn wooden door. She ducks behind a curtain of seaweed. The gossamer thin fins at the end of hertail fanning out. As she enters a cavern, its ledges filled with treasure, placing light flashes beyond an opening at the very top, and Ariel swims up followed by Flounder.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid

She gazes up towards the surface.

May 2023


Immerse yourself in the magic of audio description by playing the video below, closing your eyes, and letting the vivid imagery and rich details described in the narration of the movie trailer transport you to another world. For visually impaired individuals, audio description enhances their viewing experience and brings the story to life. It’s truly amazing!

What do you think? I feel, even without visual cues, this description vividly depicts a scene from the movie The Little Mermaid. But most importantly, and thanks to the audio descriptive narration, a visually impaired person will still be able to enjoy the audiovisual content.

This article will provide an in-depth overview of what audio description is, its history, its benefits, and its applications in various settings such as streaming services, television, movies, and live events. Additionally, we will explore how audio description promotes accessibility and inclusivity in media and its potential for creating inclusive media. Finally, we will discuss the future of audio description, including technological advancements, expanding availability, and the potential for promoting inclusivity and accessibility.

Understanding Audio Description

Audio description, also known as video description, is a service that provides additional verbal narration to supplement a program’s existing audio. This narration describes the visual content of the program, including actions, settings, costumes, and facial expressions. This allows visually impaired individuals to experience the program fully and enhances the viewing experience for all viewers.

Definition of Audio Description

According to the American Council of the Blind, audio description is “the spoken narration of visual elements in media and live productions, such as plays and sports events.” This narration is inserted between existing audio dialogue or sound effects, allowing for seamless integration into the program.

Audio description is a vital service for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. It provides them with access to visual content that they may not be able to experience otherwise. Audio description can be found on a variety of media, including television shows, movies, and live theater productions.

The History of Audio Description

Audio description has a rich history dating back several decades. It originated in the theater, where it was used to provide additional information to blind or visually impaired audience members. In the 1980s, it began to be used in television programming, with the first audio described television program airing in the United Kingdom in 1990. Since then, audio description has become more widespread and is available on many streaming services and television programs.

Audio description has come a long way since its inception. Today, it is an essential service that provides access to visual content for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

How Audio Description Works

Audio description works by providing a narrator’s voice that describes the important visual elements of a program. Audio description is carefully crafted and timed to provide information in between existing audio dialogue or sound effects. When the program’s sound drops out, the description begins, describing the scene or visual content of the program.

The narrator’s voice is typically calm and clear, providing a description of the visual content without interfering with the program’s existing audio. The narrator may describe the actions of the characters, the setting of the scene, and any other important visual elements that may be relevant to the program’s plot or storyline.

Overall, audio description is a valuable service that enhances the viewing experience for all viewers, especially those who are blind or visually impaired. It provides access to visual content that may be missed without this service, allowing everyone to enjoy the program fully.

The Benefits of Audio Description

The benefits of audio description are numerous, both for visually impaired individuals and for the general viewing audience. Here are just a few examples:

Accessibility for the Visually Impaired

For individuals who are visually impaired, audio description provides access to visual content that they may not have been able to experience before. This can help to increase inclusion and equal access to media for individuals with disabilities.

For example, a visually impaired individual may not be able to fully appreciate a beautiful landscape in a movie or TV show without audio description. With audio description, they can experience the beauty of the scenery through vivid descriptions of the landscape, enhancing their overall enjoyment of the content.

Moreover, audio description can provide information about the characters’ facial expressions and body language, which can be crucial for understanding the plot and character development.

Improved Comprehension and Retention

Even for individuals without visual impairments, audio description can be a valuable tool to improve comprehension and retention of visual content. For example, when watching a complex action sequence in a movie, audio description can help to clarify what is happening and who is involved, improving the viewer’s understanding of the scene.

Furthermore, audio description can provide additional context and background information about the content, helping viewers to better understand the cultural and historical significance of what they are watching.

How Can Audio Description Enhance the Viewing Experience for All?

Audio description can also enhance the viewing experience for all viewers, providing a deeper understanding of visual content and helping to create a more enjoyable and immersive experience.

For instance, audio description can add an extra layer of detail to a scene, highlighting important visual elements that may have been missed otherwise. This can make the viewing experience more engaging and satisfying for all viewers.

Additionally, audio description can be used creatively to add humor or emotional depth to a scene, further enhancing the overall impact of the content.

Audio description is a valuable and essential tool for providing equal access to media for visually impaired individuals, while also enhancing the viewing experience for all viewers. Its benefits extend far beyond accessibility, improving comprehension, retention, and overall enjoyment of visual content.

How to Access Audio Description

Fortunately, accessing audio description is becoming easier and more widespread. Here are a few ways that you can access audio description:

Audio Description on Streaming Services

Many streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, offer audio description on a variety of their programs. You can usually find information about the availability of audio description in the program’s description or settings.

For example, Netflix offers audio description on popular shows like Stranger Things, The Crown, and Narcos. To turn on audio description, simply go to the Audio & Subtitles menu and select the option for English – Audio Description.

Audio Description on Television and Movies

Audio description is also becoming more common on network television and in movie theaters. This is especially true for major releases or programs that are expecting a wide audience.

For example, the hit television show This Is Us offers audio description for each episode. To access it, simply turn on the SAP (Secondary Audio Program) option on your television.

Audio Description in Theaters and Live Events

Many theaters and live events are also beginning to offer audio description for their programs. This can include live theater productions, sports events, and even art exhibits.

For example, the Broadway production of Hamilton offers audio description for select performances. The audio description is provided through a headset that is available to patrons who request it.

Additionally, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. offers audio description for many of their performances, including ballets, operas, and plays. The audio description is provided through a small FM radio that patrons can borrow for the duration of the performance.

As the demand for audio description continues to grow, more and more venues and services are offering this valuable accessibility feature. So whether you’re watching your favorite show on Netflix or attending a live performance, be sure to check if audio description is available!

The Future of Audio Description

As technology continues to evolve and become more accessible, it is likely that audio description will become even more widespread and available to a wider audience. Here are a few potential developments to watch for:

Technological Advancements

New developments in technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, could help to improve the accuracy and availability of audio description. This could allow for even more seamless integration of audio description into programs and make it more widely accessible.

For example, advancements in natural language processing could help automated audio description systems better understand the context of the content they are describing, resulting in more accurate and detailed descriptions. Additionally, improvements in text-to-speech technology could lead to more natural-sounding audio descriptions.

Expanding Availability and Awareness

As more people become aware of the benefits of audio description, it is likely that it will become more widely available across a variety of platforms and programs. This will help to increase inclusion and accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

One potential avenue for expanding audio description availability is through legislation. In the United States, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act requires that video programming shown on television with captions must also have audio description. Similar laws could be passed to require audio description on other platforms, such as streaming services and online videos.

The Role of Audio Description in Inclusive Media

Audio description is just one of the many tools that can be used to make media more inclusive and accessible to a wider audience. By continuing to improve and expand upon current audio description technology, we can help to create a more equitable and accessible media landscape for all.

Other tools for inclusive media could include closed captioning, sign language interpretation, and audio subtitles. By combining these tools with audio description, we can create an even more inclusive media experience for individuals with disabilities.

If you see the audio description logo “AD logo” on a piece of media content, it is a sign that the content creators are committed to promoting accessibility and inclusivity in media.

Audio Description Logo AD Logo

Furthermore, as the population ages, there will likely be an increased demand for audio description as more people experience age-related vision loss. By investing in audio description technology now, we can help to ensure that everyone has equal access to media content in the future.

Final Thoughts

As a voice over agency specializing in audio description projects, we recognize the importance of creating inclusive media that promotes accessibility for all audiences. Our team of narrators and voice over artists are dedicated to giving voice to audio description projects in English and a variety of foreign languages. By utilizing our services, media creators can ensure that their content is accessible to visually impaired individuals and other audiences who benefit from audio description.

GoLocalise understands the critical role of audio description projects in promoting accessibility and inclusivity in media, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our clients’ content is accessible to all audiences.

By incorporating audio description into the media creation process, we can create inclusive media that promotes diversity and inclusion. We strive to ensure that all audiences can access our clients’ content and enhance their overall viewing experience. By promoting inclusivity and accessibility in media, we can create a more inclusive society that values diversity and accessibility for all.

In conclusion, audio description is an essential tool in promoting accessibility and inclusivity in media, and as a voice over agency, we are committed to providing our clients with audio description services to ensure that their content is accessible to all audiences.

If you are a content creator, media producer, or part of a media distribution company, consider incorporating audio description into your media creation process. By promoting accessibility and inclusivity in media, you can reach a wider audience and create a more inclusive society. Additionally, if you are a viewer with visual impairments, explore the availability of audio description in your preferred media settings and advocate for the expansion of audio description to promote accessibility for all.

FAQs

What is audio description?

Audio description is a narration of visual content that is delivered through a separate audio track.

How does audio description work?

Audio description is created through a process where a trained narrator records a separate audio track that describes the visual content in detail. The audio description is timed to fit within gaps of dialogue, providing the audience with a detailed description of the visuals.

What is the benefit of audio description for visually impaired individuals?

Audio description provides visually impaired individuals with a solution to access and enjoy visual media on the same level as sighted audiences, promoting accessibility and inclusivity in media.

Where can I access audio description?

Audio description is available in various settings such as streaming services, television, movies, and live events. Many streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video offer audio description tracks for selected titles. Additionally, many TV networks, movie theaters, and live event venues offer audio description for selected titles.

How can audio description promote inclusivity in media?

Audio description can be used to create inclusive media that promotes diversity and inclusion. By incorporating audio description into the media creation process, we can ensure that all audiences can access the content and create a more inclusive society.

What is the future of audio description?

The future of audio description looks promising, with technological advancements, expanding availability, and the potential for promoting inclusivity and accessibility in media. Advancements in technology such as AI and machine learning can improve the quality and accessibility of audio description, and there is a need to expand the availability and awareness of audio description to promote inclusivity and accessibility in media.

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