What is Audio Description?

Audio description (also known as video description or descriptive video) is a service that provides succinct and precise description of visual information to people who are visually impaired or blind. Audio description is utilized to describe live performances such as theatre, dance and opera, as well as media such as film and television. The descriptive narrative is inserted during the natural pauses between dialogue, song lyrics and sound effects. Audio description fills in the visual blanks by informing the listener about facial expressions, body language, visual comedy, dance movements, actions, costumes, changes of scene and other visual information crucial to fully understanding and experiencing the performance. Audio description gives the blind or visually impaired listener more complete and satisfying access to cultural experiences.

Audio description, narrated in real time, is transmitted and heard through an earpiece receiver during live performances. It is added to TV, films and DVDs as a narration track, usually chosen under the languages menu. In museums, audio description can be narrated live by a docent or can be part of the museum’s pre-recorded audio tour. There are a multitude of other venues where audio description can accommodate and be inclusive of people who are visually impaired or blind. This evolving art is proving to be a valuable tool in expanding literacy and cultural awareness around the world.

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