An audio description is an additional audio track that’s added to the video to describe and give context for essential information that’s not included in the video’s audio track and only communicated visually on the screen.
The audio description can be turned on or off by the viewer, in the same way that closed captions can be.
When turned on, the audio description plays in the pauses between the programme’s dialogue. Essential visual information that should be included in an audio description relates to things like:
- characters — for example, “Anne, a tall, elegant woman in a black dress, appears anxious.”
- actions — for example, “Rick shrugs.”
- scene changes — for example, “Anne walks into the kitchen.”
- on-screen text — for example, “The note on the table says, ‘Call the police if I’m not back by midnight!’”.
For more on audio descriptions, see:
Meeting the Web Accessibility Standard
Audio descriptions are always good to provide, if possible. However, to meet the NZ Government Web Accessibility Standard, audio descriptions are only required for pre-recorded videos that contain high-stakes information.
When a video has an audio description, this meets WCAG 2 Success Criterion 1.2.5 Audio Description (Prerecorded) (Level AA).
How an audio description makes a video more accessible
Audio descriptions provide access to video content for people who:
- are visually impaired
- cannot keep their eyes on the screen because they are doing something — for example, cooking
- want help keeping track of details in the story.
How to create an audio description
Before a video is produced
It’s cheaper and easier to plan for the creation of an audio description before a video is produced. For more, see Plan for audio description of visual information — storyboarding, recording — W3C.
Adding an audio description to an existing video
If the video has already been produced, the audio description will need to be narrated, recorded and integrated into new audio or video files.
Alternatively, if the media player you are using supports text-based audio description that is read aloud, you can create a Video Text Track (VTT) file with the timed descriptions.
If you do not have these skills and tools, you can pay a service to create the audio description using:
- writers to create the description with a time-coded transcript, and
- human voice actors or synthesised speech to deliver the description.
These are some examples of services that provide audio descriptions for videos: