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Audio Description

What Can Audio Description Be Used For?

Audio Description can be used for the following:

The following are three symbols that may be used to designate that audio description is available:

    1. Three symbols. Symbol 1 prominently features a capital A and D with sound waves emanating from the D. 2.Symbol 2 prominently features a capital D with sound waves emanating from it. 3.Symbol 3 features a white capital A and a black capital D with the words ‘audio description’ underneath.
Illustrations 1-3 Three symbols used to designate that a program or performance offers description.

Audio Description for Television Programs:

Photo of a young girl and boy watching a portable television.

In 2012, a new law in the U.S. requires the top four broadcast networks and top five cable networks, in the most populated markets in the United States, to provide 50 hours of video-described prime time or children’s programming per calendar quarter. As of July 1, 2012, these video description regulations require ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, USA, the Disney Channel, TNT, Nickelodeon, and TBS to provide at least 50 hours each of video-described programming each calendar quarter. The number of hours required will continue to grow throughout the next ten years.

Before the new regulations, there were several entities involved with providing description for television:

  • The Media Access Group maintains an online list of television shows with audio description, including programs on CBS, Fox, Nickelodeon, PBS, and TCM.
  • The Narrative Television Network (NTN) provides a list of audio described television programs and movies that can be accessed online.
  • Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is a cable television network that offers a telephone number you can call to hear a recorded schedule of their video described movies:  404 885-5535

Note that The Audio Description Project posts a Schedule of Described Shows on TV.

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Audio Description for Films:

Audio description is available in certain movies. Many theaters have equipment installed to deliver the narration through a listening system. Movie goers put on a special wireless headset to hear a description of important visual elements that are happening in the movie. Every year, more movie theaters and entertainment centers offer description, including IMAX theaters, National Park Visitor Centers, and Disney Parks and Resorts. Visit:

  • Caption Fish
    Caption Fish is a search engine for accessible movies. Enter your location into the search box, choose "Descriptive Video" in the filter and find theaters and movies with audio description. The search results also include movie show times.
  • DCMP
    The Described and Captioned Media Program offers an informative online article that gives an overview regarding how theatrical description works and where to find video described movies.
  • NCAM
    The National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) posts a ‘Now Showing’ webpage that provides a list of current movies available with audio description and closed captions. It also contains content about making movie theaters available to disabled audiences.

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Audio Description for Digital Media including Streaming Media and DVDs

Photo of a girl and a young woman using a laptop computer.

Audio description can be delivered, digitally, via streaming media. Sites that feature this service include:

  • CaptionMax's YouTube Channel offers free online programming with audio description, including classic movies and informative videos about description and captioning.
  • DCMP on YouTube features a variety of streaming programs, video described by the Described and Captioned Media Program.
  • The Narrative TV Network Channel provides digital streaming video described programs through the services of the Narrative Television Network.

Although there are only a limited number of DVDs available with audio description, in 2010 there were more described DVDs released than in the last 10 years combined. Many major Hollywood studios such as Sony, Universal, and Disney have agreed to describe their DVD and Blu-ray releases whenever description is produced for their original theatrical movies. When available, there will be a audio description logo on the DVD box or in the set up menu. The Audio Description Project posts a list of DVDs that include audio described tracks. This list also provides links to pages where you can purchase these DVDs.

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Audio Description for Live Performances and Events

Photo of a boy and man looking at a computer screen.

Description is available for theater, opera, dance… just about any live performance. Live events, such as a circus or parade can also be enhanced by description, as can presentations that use visual materials

Theatrical companies sometimes use live describers to explain actions, exits, entrances, and important props. Description sometimes includes details of the stage setting, backgrounds, and costumes. Most theater description is delivered through small, individual handheld receivers with a volume control and a headset.

For a list of theaters around the United States that offer description, visit the Audio Description Project’s performing arts web page. Although this page is thorough and up to date, it may not include information regarding your local theater. You may want to call up the theater you’re interested in visiting and ask if they provide description. The following are some online articles regarding description for live performances. They provide some insight as to the work that goes into providing descriptive services for live shows and the importance of accessible theater.

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Audio Description for Museums, Exhibits, and Tours

Photo of a little boy, wearing headphones, and a woman.

A growing number of museums and parks offer tours with description. These are different from standard museum audio tours. Instead of emphasizing information regarding an exhibit’s history and cultural significance, described tours explain visual aspects of an object, such as their size, shape, color, texture, etc. Museum and parks description also helps lead visitors from exhibit to exhibit. Unfortunately, not many museums currently offer described tours. Information, however, about the importance of these tours is beginning to spread due to the efforts of progressive organizations such as the Museum Access Consortium and Art Education for the Blind.

The Museum Access Consortium (MAC) is a network of museum professionals and members of the disability community. MAC members are dedicated to providing access to cultural facilities for all individuals. MAC currently represents about 100 diverse cultural institutions throughout the New York Metropolitan area. Art Education for the Blind (AEB) is an organization committed to promoting and providing the benefits of art education and accessible museum experiences for children and adults with sight loss. AEB posts a webpage where you can hear Samples of Verbal Description for paintings, sculptures, and museum descriptions.

For more information, visit these links regarding description, accessible attractions, and walking tours for those with visual impairments:

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