Audio Descriptions

Non-verbal content requires audio descriptions in order to aid those who cannot see the media (e.g., video content, slide shows). Ideally, audio descriptions are an additional audio track that can be turned on and off by audience members.

This type of audio track works in combination with the main audio track. When people are talking, no description can be provided and vice versa. It sounds much like someone reading a book, going between narration and dialogue / sound effects.

When developing the script for your audio description, you must consider timing, since your explanation will be in competition with oral content:

  • keep it short and sweet when you do not have a long space to talk
  • do not try to describe anything if no audible space is available
  • describe important actions, expressions and behaviors that cannot already be understood audibly
  • describe important parts of the scene or environment that provide atmosphere and/or set up interaction in the storyline

A good example of the last tip is a scene where someone lights up a cigarette and, a little while later, someone else tells that individual to put out the cigarette. Without the set up, you didn't know who was smoking or why someone was talking about a cigarette. These actions often explain behavior and personality needed to tell the story.

The video players we use do not currently allow a second audio track for audio descriptions. A second option is creating an audio transcription that combines the visual descriptions. Timing is no longer a challenge, since a transcript is just the text. It is not synchronized with the visuals. This is a supplemental document to the required closed captioning for videos.

In the classroom or any online presentation

In a live or recorded presentation, you should include important elements from your slides and other media (e.g., drawings on the board) in your oral presentation that would not normally have been mentioned.

No online meeting or web conferencing platforms provide audio description tracks or separate windows for the audio description. Workarounds:

  • Describe your actions or important visuals aloud to the audience.
  • Provide attendees with accessible presentation and supporting documents before the event, so attendees can become familiarized with the content.