Audio description basics

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Basic principles

Fundamentally, the approach is that all teaching and learning content can be made inherently accessible without the need for audio description to be added as a separate track. Content creators would need to ensure that any images/videos/other visuals (graphs etc) are adequately described either verbally or in text/transcript form (such as a presentation which was being made available directly to users). This means that a user without sight can access the visual information. Having this descriptive information included in the main content also has benefits for all learners as it helps to reinforce information (there are studies that have examined the increased retention when patrons of art galleries/museums have works described to them, rather than consuming on their own).

Creating Integrated Description

Tips for Writing Descriptions

Generally, all text in the video should be included in the main audio (integrated description) or in the separate description. For example, title text at the beginning of the video, links and e-mail addresses shown at the end, speakers’ names in text, and text in a presentation. The text does not have to be included verbatim (exactly word-for-word), yet all of the information conveyed by the text needs to be available in the main audio, in the separate description, or clearly with the video.

Tips for Recording Descriptions

Audio description can help with things like Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of content and opens up the possibility of additional accessibility options - such as a blind user using a screen reader to whizz through the entire transcript of an hour-long video very quickly, rather than listening to the recorded audio in real time. Images can be described by the narrator, while an audio-described version of a video could be played to everyone (or the video could be given a brief introduction before being played). One thing to note in videos would be ensuring that any important onscreen text was read out or conveyed somehow.

Marketing videos

With content such as marketing videos etc, the approach would be very similar. Ask speakers to read out onscreen text and captions/job titles to ensure that the main video is inherently accessible - rather than needing a second version with AD. With particularly visual pieces such as brand promotions, where there are important visuals to describe (such as a shiny new science lab in a funding pitch, or something that is trying to convey a sense of student life at a university) then consider adding audio description. Similarly, if the content is to do with accessibility or disability it can be worth adding AD.

Meetings and events

Physical descriptions in meetings/events can sometimes be appropriate. For example, it can be very helpful to make context really clear. This could be a white lecturer giving a class on a novel about Apartheid and wanting to acknowledge that their opinion comes from their lived experience of whiteness when there might be blind people in the audience (physical or virtual) then this can't be assumed/taken for granted so it is best to be verbalised. See this VocalEyes resource.

Laboratory experiments case study

Dr Stefano Biagini from the University of Kent provides an audio description of a laboratory experiement: Stopping the reaction and precipitation of the polystyrene.

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