Have you ever attempted to watch a movie/video on a screen that was so small you could not see it and in addition to that the audio track did not provide enough description which prevented the ability to follow the plot? Have you attended a play, movie or other event in which your seats had an obstacle impeding your view which prohibited seeing the action performed which left you wondering what happened when only action was occurring and there was no verbal dialog? Have you ever attended a webinar where the video portion had technical difficulties and you could only listen to the audio and missed the essential non- verbal content preventing you from completely understanding the concept? Ever listened to a video on your mobile device and due to safety reasons could not look at the screen and therefor missed understanding the complete concept because not everything was described sufficiently?
If you experienced any of the above accessibility obstacles how do you think this would make you feel? Would you feel excluded and truly left in the dark? This is how some blind or visually impaired people feel if they cannot fully participate in such activities.
Fortunately with today’s technology the blind, visually impaired and others without disabilities who may have the temporary obstacles described at the start of this blog post can participate and understand the content if the developer/producer/publisher incorporates Audio Description.
What is Audio Description?
Audio Description is an additional audio track that describes and gives context for essential visual information. Audio Description makes videos, multimedia, plays and museum exhibitions, as well as a large variety of other events and activities more accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. It also helps others who are not disabled but may have temporary obstacles by capturing essential visual information into audible descriptions that are played during natural pauses in the primary audio track.
A few of several examples of where Audio Description can be added are shown below to assist the targeted audience understand the media being presented are:
• A scene in a movie, video or play where there is only action and no verbal dialog describing the action when the action is critical to understanding the movie or video - Describe the action
• An amusement park ride where the visual experience is critical to fully participate in the ride experience - Describe the visual setting
• When the speaker’s facial expressions, body language, clothing and colors add context to the meaning of what is being presented - Describe the facial expressions, body language, clothing and colors
• If the environment adds additional information to aide in setting the mood for the audience - Describe the environment
• A webinar where the instructor is taking an action which they do not describe what is crucial to understand the concept - Describe the action
• If presenting a training video of a software application and reaction within the application caused by a mouse click or keystroke is critical in performing the task being verbally described - Describe the reaction
• When multiple people are talking and the audience can benefit from associating the voice of the person speaking with what they are talking about - Sparingly introduce the speakers
• A conference call where anyone in the call is sharing information and they do not describe that which is crucial to understand the concept - Describe the information being shared
My last four bullet points are good candidates to leverage the Low Tech solution borrowed from WebAIM: Captions, Transcripts, and Audio Descriptions.
Producing audio descriptions can be expensive and time-consuming. When producing a video for the web, the need for audio descriptions can often be avoided. If the video were displaying a list of five important items, the narrator might say, "As you can see, there are five important points." In this case, audio descriptions would be necessary to provide the visual content to those with visual disabilities who cannot 'see' what the important points are. However, if the narrator says, "There are five important points. They are..." and then reads or describes each of the points, then the visual content is being conveyed through audio and there is no additional need for audio descriptions.
To learn more about the value and begin to learn how to incorporate audio description into your products to increase audience satisfaction read...
"Creating Opportunities with Accessibility: Movie Theaters”
“Audio Description for Media and Live Performance Chicago Web Accessibility & Inclusive Design Meetup”.
Has anyone experienced Audio Description and can provide comments to help others learn? If you have never heard of Audio Description did you learn anything from this blog post? Can you think of other activities that can utilize Audio Description to increase accessibility and therefore inclusion? Does anyone have suggestions to leverage Audio Description for people without visual disabilities to help justify it being incorporated into products for universal design? Does anyone have any other comments on the subject of audio description?
I look forward to hearing your valuable thoughts and comments.
Global Dialogue Center