Audio Description

What is audio description?

Audio Accessibility 

Why it’s important.

About Audio Description

About Audio Description Services

First things first, let’s talk about what audio description services are, why it’s important and why you should have Gotham Lab handle your audio description needs. Audio description services can be described as a human voice narration to help describe visual elements in a video to individuals who are blind or have visual impairment. This helps describe important visual details that cannot be understood from the main soundtrack alone. Without audio description services, elements and details in the video will be impossible for the visually impaired to comprehend.

Audio description, also referred to as descriptive audio or video description, serves as a pivotal accessibility feature aimed at fostering inclusivity for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. This service involves the incorporation of an additional narration track within visual media content, such as movies, TV shows, live performances, and more. This narration goes beyond the spoken dialogue, offering detailed descriptions of crucial visual elements. For instance, it might highlight actions, facial expressions, scene changes, and other intricate details that contribute to the overall visual narrative. By seamlessly integrating these descriptions during natural pauses in the audio, individuals with visual disabilities gain a richer and more immersive understanding of the content. This transformative service not only enhances the entertainment experience but also ensures that diverse audiences can equally access and appreciate the visual aspects of media. In doing so, audio description becomes a fundamental tool for promoting accessibility and breaking down barriers to information and entertainment for those with visual impairments.

Audio description is commentary and narration that guides the listener through the presentation with concise, objective descriptions of scenes, settings, costumes, body language, and “sight gags,” all slipped in between portions of dialogue. For television, movies and videos, the audio description track is provided as an alternate audio track and can be turned on or off.

Here’s the FCC’s definition of audio description:

§79.3 (a)(3) Video Description/Audio Description.

The insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements into natural pauses between the program’s dialogue.

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Audio Descriptions Are Important

In 2002 the Federal Communications Commission ruled that all major broadcast television networks and the largest cable television networks are required to provide a certain number of hours of audio described television programming each quarter in the USA. The FCC’s authority to do this was challenged in court by various organizations, and the FCC’s mandate was struck down. It took 8 long years for Congress to reinstate the FCC’s authority to mandate description, and nearly 2 more years to implement it. Currently, nine broadcast and cable networks are required to provide a minimum of 87.5 hours of audio description for television shows per quarter. 

Audio description is a vital requirement in ensuring equitable access to visual media for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. This service plays a pivotal role in breaking down barriers and fostering inclusivity by providing detailed narrations of visual elements in movies, TV shows, live performances, and more. By offering descriptions of actions, settings, and facial expressions during natural pauses in the audio, audio description allows those with visual disabilities to form a comprehensive understanding of the content. This not only facilitates equal participation in cultural and recreational activities but also ensures that individuals with visual impairments can engage fully in educational experiences. Legal mandates and regulations in many countries underscore the importance of accessibility, making audio description a necessary tool to meet these obligations.

Beyond compliance, audio description empowers individuals by promoting independence, enhancing social inclusion, and contributing to a more inclusive society where diverse audiences can share and enjoy common cultural experiences. Overall, the requirement for audio description is grounded in the principles of accessibility, equality, and the fundamental right of everyone to participate fully in the cultural and informational landscape.

Many of your favorite American TV series have audio description tracks. Currently over 200 TV series in the USA contain audio descriptions.

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More About Audio Description Services

For starters, we use human experts that are specially trained in creating an audio descriptive script that will adhere to legal and regulatory standards. Once the audio descriptive script is created, we use human voice-over talent to record in a neutral, informative and friendly tone. We do not use text to speech, AI or other automated software tools that compromise the quality and sound of the audio description service. Contact us today for a personalized experience and quote.

Audio description, as a concept, began to gain traction in the 1980s as a means of providing access to visual media for individuals with visual impairments. The first major use of audio description in the United States occurred in 1981 during a performance of the play “The Elephant Man” on Broadway. Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl, who was blind, and her husband Cody, pioneered the use of audio description for live theater. They established the Metropolitan Washington Ear, an organization that played a significant role in developing and promoting audio description services. In the following years, audio description expanded beyond live theater to other forms of visual media, including television and film.

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) were instrumental in advocating for the inclusion of audio description in various media platforms. The implementation of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act in 1990 further spurred the adoption of audio description on television. Since then, the use of audio description has continued to grow globally, with many countries recognizing its importance in ensuring equal access to visual content for individuals with visual disabilities. The development of technology has also played a role in making audio description more widely available in various forms of media.

Learn how to create an audio description script

At Gotham Lab, we are proud of our top-notch audio description services, making visual media content accessible for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Our comprehensive process ensures a seamless integration of descriptive narration into movies, TV shows, live performances, and more. Here’s how we deliver unparalleled accessibility:

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With an increase in global viewership around the world, having subtitles and captions for your video content is a necessity. Subtitling and captioning your content will help you reach the largest audience possible and enable viewers to understand your videos in any language.

We have hundreds of professional voice talent in over 50 languages. Our in-house studio uses the highest quality microphones, hardware and software to produce broadcast ready recordings in any language. We have exclusivity agreements and audio engineers ready to get it done. 

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