- Chris McMillan
European Blind Union - home The voice of blind and partially sighted people in Europe
Newsletter. July - August 2016
Blind and partially sighted people watch television and use a range of audiovisual media services, just like anyone else. However, in order to be able to do so, they need, amongst other things, for these services to have audio description available. What is audio description, you may well ask? In simple terms it is the spoken narrative describing the visual action. It is an extra narrative that's mixed in with the original soundtrack. In the gaps between the existing dialogue and sound effects, someone describes the important visual action taking place on screen. It can also be more detailed, and this is then known as extended audio description. This is similar, but it means that more detailed descriptions can be provided. Sometimes the spaces between the dialogue and sound effects aren't long enough to describe what's happening on screen. Extended audio description pauses the video to allow time for a more detailed description to be given. When the description is done, the video resumes playing.
Blind and partially sighted people benefit most clearly from audio description. A good audio described soundtrack will describe characters, scene changes, and on screen text. People with cognitive disabilities might also find this information helps them process visual content more easily. If, as a sighted person you want to get an idea of why this is important, the next time you watch television, try closing your eyes for a while. Attempt to keep track of who's talking, and what's going on. That is what audio description provides.