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The Audio Description Project

Past News Articles About Audio Description, 2010-2014

This page contains selected news items previously featured on our main page, starting in late 2010 and ending in 2014.
For later years, please visit our main Past AD News page.


ACB Response to DOJ Request for Comments

Back in July, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) requested commments on a proposed update to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require movie theaters to provide closed movie captioning and audio description.  The ACB recently filed a response.  The deadline for filing your own response has passed, but you can read the ACB response.  You can also read the original DOJ filing, if you wish.  (Updated Dec 3)

Comcast Releases Talking Guide for Television

As of November 19, Comcast is rolling out their X1 Digital Service Talking Guide, which will speak channel listings and program descriptions, making access to television programs MUCH more usable for people who are blind or have low vision.  To take advantage of the Talking Guide, you need X1 equipment, which reportedly most Comcast users already have ("X1" should be printed on the front of the box).  The service must be activated first; call 855-270-0379 to learn how.  Read an article about the Talking Guide published in The Boston Globe, and read another article with more detail published by the AFB.  Comcast said their talking guide is the first such service offered by any cable company in the US and was developed in response to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.  (Posted Nov 18)

Who Decides What They See?

That's the discussion point in a recent article on audio description comparing the different viewpoints of two important names in Audio Description:  Joel Snyder, who teaches audio description around the world and is the ADP Project Director, and Joshua Miele, a blind scientist at the Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center who recently launched a website (YouDescribe) where anyone can record description.

Different viewpoints?  Consider these excerpts from the article.

Snyder told me that if he were God, he wouldn’t allow anyone to describe a movie without first taking his workshop. “I’ve seen blind people just pull their earbuds out,” he said. “I’d rather a film had no description than bad description.”

And then there is Dr Miele's point of view:

When I mentioned Snyder’s preference for no description over bad description, Miele laughed. “It’s fine for him to say as a sighted guy,” he said. “Me, I’d much rather have something substandard than nothing.”

And then Georgina Kleege (who is also blind), an English professor at the University of California, Berkeley, weighs in:

“They do the best they can, but mainstream description services are limited by their own rules and standards,” Kleege said. “I respect them — they pioneered description — but ask a blind person how they want something described, and you get many answers.

Ah yes, that's the problem, isn't it?  "Many answers!"  Read the full article in The California Sunday Magazine.  (Posted Nov 6)

Audio Description Project Conference Highlights

We had a terrific Conference this year!  There were 66 attendees from nine countries signed up (including speakers), with an average attendance of 35 at any given session.  We had a good split between users and providers of audio description, with excellent opportunities to interact.  Our new mentor program also paired describers with ACB Conference attendees who weren't otherwise directly involved in our project.  The mentors/mentees learned from each other.

Do you have a suggested topic for our next Conference two years from now?  Drop us a line!  We'd really like to hear from you.

One highlight of the Conference was the presentation by Tom Wladkowski, Vice President of Accessibility at Comcast.  Tom described his X-1 cloud-based platform for delivering an easy-to-use accessible TV and video controller later this year.  He not only described features initially available (like a talking remote with simple controls and a talking Guide), but the intent to add features like voice control in the future.  Tom also acknowledged problems with customer service reps not understanding video description issues, so they established a dedicated Accessibility Center reachable at 1-855-270-0379.

Separately, important dates mandated by the FCC moving accessiblity forward were reviewed, including the requirement for emergency message scrolls to be voiced by May 2015 (though that will interfere with the delivery of video description); and the requirement for accessible user interfaces (such as one-button access to video description) by December 2016. 

SEE ALSO:  (Updated July 31)

Emirates Airline Introduces Movies With AD Tracks

Emirates, who was recently awarded the ‘World's Best Airline Inflight Entertainment’ award at the SKYTRAX World Airline Awards for the 10th consecutive year, now offers Audio Description soundtracks on 16 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures films.  Read the article on Emirates.  (Posted July 31)

Aids for Audio Describers

Audio describing fireworks was the subject of an interesting post recently by Roz Chalmers from VocalEyes in the UK, so we've republished it here.

And other friends across the pond at the Audio Description Association in the UK have published a very interesting paper entitled:  A Word In Your Ear:  A Theatre Describer's Introduction to AD, by Mary Plackett.  The paper describes the process used to prepare for and describe a live theatre production.  Planning, approach, technique, and technology are all addressed.  A great read!  (Updated July 31)

Justice Dept Proposes ADA Modification for Movie Theater Accessibility

On Friday, July 25, Attorney General Eric Holder signed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the Title III regulation for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require movie theaters to provide closed movie captioning and audio description in order to give persons with hearing and vision disabilities access to movies.  Read the full Justice Department announcement.  (Posted July 25)

Award Winners at the ADP Conference

Thank you for all the nominations!  Here are the winners selected by a committee headed by Chris Gray, former president of the ACB.

  • Achievement in Audio Description - Media:  Diane Johnson and Descriptive Video Works, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Achievement in Audio Description - Performing Arts:  Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, FL
  • Achievement in Audio Description - Museums:  Sandy Malmquist and the Connecticut Children's Museum, New Haven, CT
  • Achievement in Audio Description - International:  Steph Kirkland and the VocalEye Descriptive Arts Society, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description - Research and Development:  Dr. Louise Fryer, London, U.K.
  • Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description:  Dr. Joel Snyder, Takoma Park, MD

See Previous Winners.  (Updated July 19)

The 2014 Audio Description Project Conference
is Underway in Las Vegas!

The 2014 ADP Conference, July 13-15, in Las Vegas is underway.  We have a large list of registrants.  Here's a list of sessions:

  • Getting the Most Out of the ADP Website: How to Access Audio Described TV, Movies, and Videos
  • Description and Literacy
  • Legislative Update
  • Advocacy for Audio Description / Boosting Description for Media
  • Broadcast Description
  • The Description Profession
  • Audio Description in Spanish
  • Knowing Your Audience-Performing Arts Description
  • Seeing the Art-Visual Art/Museum Description
  • Creating AD: How to Work with the Audio-Description-Evolution-Model (ADEM)
  • Field Trip - Illusions with audio description starring Jan Rouven - Unbelievable Magic! Undeniable Mystery!--at the Riviera Hotel
  • Luncheon with guest speaker
  • ACB/ADP Awards
  • The Audio Description Consumer
  • Open Sharing / Discussion

For reference, you can read The 2014 ADP Conference package.  (Updated July 13)

The Audio Description Institute

Registration is still open for the sixth annual (that ought to tell you something about its success!) Audio Description Institute, taught by Dr Joel Snyder, July 16-18, following the ADP Conference in Las Vegas.  If you are interested in getting into the audio description business, or if you want a refresher course on audio description, this is the opportunity for you!  Read all about the AD Institute; then Register for the Institute, and make your hotel reservations (800-634-6753, mentioning the ACB, or online).  Become an audio describer -- or a better one -- by attending the institute!  Note:  There is a $75 discount if you also attend the ADP Conference.  NOTE:  If online registration is closed, you can register ON-SITE at the conference.  (Updated July 13)

Joel Snyder Teaches AD Around the World

In April, ADP Project Director Dr Joel Snyder taught a class on audio description in New Zealand (read their write-up); and following a class he taught in Slovenia, an interview he gave was published under the title Understanding the Needs of the People is a Matter of Citizens' Rights.  (Posted May 28)

NOTE:  Joel's new book, The Visual Made Verbal, is now available!  Read all about it.

"24" and More, Video Described ...

Each month we update the list of described TV shows in the USA on our Television page to account for canceled shows (like Raising Hope and Necessary Roughness) and new ones (like 24, Cosmos, Sirens, and Growing Up Fisher).  Watch for updates throughout the year, and let us know if we missed anything.  Some of the networks still aren't listing described shows separately, but the links below the schedule will get you to the right shows weekly. 

As a reminder, your best resource for a listing of described shows is the Master Schedule of Described Shows (except PBS) prepared especially for the ADP.  (Updated May 6)

Zagga TV

Zagga Entertainment is a start-up organization trying to get funding for audio described video on demand.  If you are interested in learning more and helping this organization fulfill their goals (which may very well be your goals), please visit the Zagga TV crowd-sourcing website.  (Posted May 6)

Global Accessibility Awareness Day and Describeathon14

The third Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) will take place on May 15.  The goal of GAAD is to get people to think about, discuss and experience digital accessibility issues that impact people with disabilities, first-hand.  Smith-Kettlewell's is sponsoring an event they are calling Describeathon14 recognizing GAAD.  What is Describeathon14?  Click the link to find out, especially if you are an audio describer!  Check the two links above after May 15 to see results.

Anyone else interested in participating in GAAD by running an event, virtual or otherwise, or blogging about it, can send an email to so that it can be promoted.  (Updated May 9)


Interesting concept now ... reality later this year?  The Week magazine recently published an interesting article about the history and concept behind TalkingFlix, a company that hopes to provide on-demand audio description for television and mobile devices.  Read the article.  (Posted Apr 8)

Just Add Words

That's the name of a contest being sponsored by CaptionMax, a captioning and video description company.  They are offering prizes of up to $2000 for non-professional description of your choice of five videos on their website.  If you don't get paid for description, you can enter, provided you are an adult living in the USA.  View the Contest page.  Ends April 30.  (Posted Apr 8)

New Described TV Show:  Growing Up Fisher

The 30-minute TV series Growing Up Fisher began in its regular time slot of Tuesdays at 9:30 pm on NBC on February 25.  The show is semi-autobiographical, based on an alumnus of The Carroll Center in Newton, MA.  In brief, the storyline involves a blind man's (JK Simmons) helpful son (Eli Baker) being replaced by a guide dog named Elvis, and how this all affects the family going through a divorce.  Read the story behind the series.  (Updated Mar 25)

How Blind People Experience Dance

Modern DancersThat's the title of an article just published by Colorado Public Radio.  Written by Stephanie Wolf, a trained audio describer, the article addresses not only what's going on in Colorado, but the concepts of good dance description.  It turns out that the wife of the Audio Description Project's Director, Joel Snyder, is able to help!  Esther Geiger, a certified movement analyst, discusses focusing on the dynamics of the dance, not just body actions.

In a video with description (by Joel), we see that there is no effort made to describe every action, which would be impossible.  In fact, there are long pauses allowed to just enjoy the music.  Description focuses on overall effect and intent.  Read the whole article.  (Posted Feb 25)

Audio Description Training in 2014

In 2014, there will likely be two more opportunities for audio description training.

This year we will feature AD training once again at the annual ACB Conference in July, plus we will be having an Audio Description Project Conference!  Check our 2014 ADP Conference and AD Institute page periodically for updates.

In general, to find training opportunities, visit our Training/Education link at the top of any website page.  (Updated Feb 25)

Seeing the Show With Their Ears

That's the title of a piece in the NY Times this month on the D-Scriptive audio description service available at a number of New York City performing arts venues.  Currently, six performances offer the free service, with more in the pipeline.  Read more about the D-Scriptive service.  (Posted Feb 18)

Samsung Tests TV Accessibility

The 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act (signed October 8, 2010) requires manufacturers of video delivery equipment to make their products accessible to people with disabilities.  They were given about five years to make this happen.  Samsung appears to be one of the first manufacturers to step up to the plate.

Samsung LogoCarroll Center LogoSamsung is partnering with The Carroll Center in Newton, MA, to evaluate their equipment.  The Carroll Center, a rehabilitation center for newly blinded individuals, was the first in the country to offer computer training classes to its students, and it now helps agencies, institutions, and manufacturers improve accessibility to websites and products.  Right now they are working with Samsung to test audible menu access, screen contrast and magnification options, and voice recognition functions on equipment which may be introduced to the public as early as later this year.

Read about the Samsung/Carroll Center partnership.  (Posted Jan 28)

Canadian Series Four Senses Features Blind Chef
(Updated and Revised Jan 24)

Billed as "a new culinary series for the blind and visually impaired," a new TV show begins on January 24th in Canada entitled Four Senses.   It features "Top Chef Canada" winner Carl Heinrich and Gordon Ramsey's "MasterChef" Season 3 winner Christine Ha, who is visually impaired.  Chef Ha says, “I want to show that we can do almost everything a sighted person can with the proper adaptations."

The series "is also produced with embedded description (it describes itself)," according to AMI Canada, Inc., the network producing the show. 

"Taking an innovative approach to accessibility, Four Senses utilizes the practice of embedded description [EDV], where the description is worked directly into the program, eliminating the need for an additional narration track to be added in post-production."  Read a description of EDV.

It will be interesting to see how well the concept of embedded description works!  Read more here (revised) and view a promo here.  But WHAT IF YOU DON'T LIVE IN CANADA?  AMI Canada is seriously looking into launching podcasts of the series soon.  (Updated Jan 24)

The BLICK Film Festival

The second annual BLICK Film Festival was held in Gothenburg, Sweden, in November.  It featured lectures and panel discussions (including one with ADP Project Director Dr Joel Snyder) on audio description in theatre and television, plus numerous described films (some described in both Swedish and English) and a described live theatre performance.  Read all about Blick 2013!  Two film clips of sessions in English with Dr Snyder have just been added.  (Updated Jan 4)


Guide to Providing Audio Description

The Kennedy Center's Office of VSA and Accessibility has recently released a new publication oriented towards performing arts venues that wish to explore providing audio description for its patrons.  Read the PDF:  Audio Description for People with Vision Loss:  A Guide for Performing Arts Settings.  (Posted Dec 19)

Nordic Audio Film Forum

In November the Nordic Audio Film Forum was formed with an objective of promoting the national and international supply of audio description for cinema, television, and cultural events by exchange of experience, common projects, and initiatives.  The forum intends to give audio description more publicity.  Read about the Film Forum (PDF).  (Posted Dec 10)

Verizon FiOS TV to Carry Video Described Movies

Verizon is now including video described first-run feature films in its FiOS Video On Demand library.  Read Technology Helping the Blind & Visually Impaired Enjoy TV & Movies by WGBH's Larry Goldberg.  FiOS is a subscription based fiber-optic cable service available in many parts of the country.  (Posted Nov 5)

FCC to Expand Accessibility of Video Programming

The FCC has announced that it will soon publish a ruling that virtually all TV and TV-like devices, inclusive of tablets and smart phones, receiving digital video programming must be accessible through audible controls.  Mark Richert, of the AFB, attributes consumer advocacy for making "this transformative achievement possible."  "AFB, along with the American Council of the Blind (ACB) successfully negotiated with leading industry advocates to craft the consensus" leading to the ruling.  Read more about the FCC's announcement.  (Posted Oct 31)

NosferatuHappy Audio Described Halloween!

ACB's Audio Description Project, in conjunction with Audio Description Associates, LLC and VITAC (the nation's largest captioning company), is pleased to offer you a Halloween gift:  the classic 1922 horror film Nosferatu (the original "Dracula") with captions and audio description!  "Nosferatu," about a Dracula-like character who spreads terror and pestilence through the protagonist's hometown before his lust for blood destroys him, is the fourth installment of VITAC and the ACB's series of audio described Halloween programs.

The audio described soundtrack will be broadcast on ACB Radio at 9:00 pm EDT on Thursday, October 31, 2013 -- just tune in to:; and the film, with captioning and audio description, is also available via both VITAC's and the ADP's website and Facebook page and on YouTube.  (Posted Oct 29)

Congratulations to Dr Joel Snyder

Joel Snyder, the Project Director for the ACB's Audio Description Project and prolific worldwide audio description trainer, has just been awarded his Doctorate degree in "Accessibility and Ambient Intelligence" (translation: audio description, a form of audiovisual translation) by the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.  After 30 years' experience in the field, Joel is pulling together the four years of work on his degree to publish later this year under the American Council of the Blind's imprint.  Congratulations, Joel!  (Posted Sep 24)

AD for Netflix and Cinemas Campaigns

Netflix has rejected requests to include audio description tracks!  Here is their response to Robert Kingett's efforts:

Thank you for being a Netflix fan and for being so passionate about making Netflix more accessible. At this point we have no immediate plans to add audio descriptions to our service. We continuously evaluate this and we will let you know if there's a change, but don't expect it to come in the near future.

Robert is heading a campaign to try to get Netflix to offer audio described videos, and he has created The Accessible Netflix Project to disseminate information and collect comments.  Click on About This Project to learn more, and use the Feedback Form to describe your own experience and interest.

Separately, Robert has started a petition to support Senator Tom Harkin's CINEMA Act, to get AD in all movie theaters.  Sign the petition.  (Updated Aug 27)

London Calling:  September 21 & 22 2013

It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce and confirm the four magnificent London buildings that we will be audio-describing for open House Weekend 2013 [September 21-22].  I hope that there is something for everyone and hope that you will be able to join us on one or even all of the audio-described tours.

The four buildings will be:  The Royal Courts of Justice, Kings Place, Guildhall and The Angel Building.

Open House London celebrates all that is best about the capital’s buildings, places and neighbourhoods. Every September, it gives a unique opportunity to get out and under the skin of London’s amazing architecture, with buildings of all kinds opening their doors to everyone – all for free.

Each tour will be led by one of our VocalEyes describers with a representative from the architectural firm or building on hand to answer any questions you may have about the building.

Do click onto the building name [at our website] for links to find out more about the four buildings including dates and times of the tours and how to book for one or all of the tours.  The tours have been kindly supported by The Greater London Fund for the Blind and the Leathersellers Company.

Submitted by VocalEyes, (Posted Aug 27)

FCC Seeks Comments on Video Description
DEADLINE:  September 4!

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) seeks comment on video description of video programming that is delivered via both television and the Internet.  The comments received will inform a report to Congress required by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) on the status, benefits, and costs of video description on television and Internet-provided video programming.

In particular, the FCC wants to hear from you about:

  • The availability, use, and benefits of video description on video programming distributed on television;
  • The technical and creative issues associated with providing such video description;
  • The amount of video-described programming that is currently available to consumers on television, as well as the types of programming that are provided with video description;
  • Is the availability of video description indicated in program guides or other sources? If it is, is it indicated audibly, and is there a common industry method to indicate that the program is video-described?
  • The technical issues involved with the provision of video-described television programming related to the viewing of such programming; and
  • The benefits of providing video descriptions for video programming that is delivered using the Internet, and are there other technologies or functionalities that must be developed to accommodate the delivery of video-described programming on the Internet and to make such programming accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired?

Read Docket 11-43 (or PDF version).  To submit comments, click the Submit a Filing link on the Docket page (or any other page in the ECFS system), and specify Proceeding number 11-43.  ACT NOW!  (Posted Aug 27)

2013 ADP Award Winners

The winners of the 2013 ACB Audio Description Project Awards were announced by Chris Gray at the ACB Convention Plenary Session as follows:

  • Achievement in Audio Description - Media:  Hollywood Access Services, Los Angeles, CA
  • Achievement in Audio Description - Performing Arts:  Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, IL
  • Achievement in Audio Description - Museums:  The White House, Washington, DC
  • Achievement in Audio Description - International:  Accessible Media, Inc., Toronto, Canada
  • Dr. Margaret R, Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description - Research and Development:  Ryerson University and Dr. Deborah Fels, Toronto, Canada
  • Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description:  Rick Boggs, Los Angeles, CA

Congratulations to all!  Read the ADP Awards Details.  (Posted July 16)

Vision Loss Connections Sets AD Record

The American Musical is an icon of the theater from Broadway to London's West End, and Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theater has become an opening venue for many new Musicals.  Both Hairspray and Memphis opened at the 5th Avenue, and each won the Tony awards for Best Musical.

Vision Loss Connections (VLC) is a Seattle non-profit organization that specializes in offering affordable access to arts and cultural events.  VLC works closely with ACB local chapters and offers $25 per person Audio Described Group Theater Tickets.  The groups usually average 35 people per show, with American classic musicals the most popular.

Through an active partnership begun in 2005, Vision Loss Connections fills the 5th Avenue Theater with white cane and guide dog users for each AD Performance.  In 2013, Jersey Boys set a Seattle AD Record with 50 people who are blind or low vision in the audience along with friends and family members for a total of 83 people in the VLC group.  Meeting for a pre show lunch, quality Audio Description and braille Programs help to build community and create a very accessible and enjoyable performance. 

The 5th Avenue Theater has recently updated their Audio Description system with a new Sennheiser infrared Assisted Listening System which provides clear reception and comfortable headsets for visually impaired theater goers.  The new season at the Fifth Avenue features two new musicals along with Oliver, Spamalot, and Porgy and Bess.  Vision Loss Connections eagerly anticipates another record setting year for very popular shows at the 5th Avenue!  See also their press release about their June 2013 Seattle Flight Museum accessible tour.  (Submitted by Patt Copeland; Posted July 2)

AD Training Manual - Coming Later This Year

THE VISUAL MADE VERBAL: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description, with associated web site;  by Joel Snyder, published by the American Council of the Blind (ACB); $14.95; to be available from the ACB Bookstore or Amazon.  From the book:

"Audio Description (AD) makes the visual images of theater, media and visual art accessible for people who are blind or have low vision. Using words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative (via the use of similes or comparisons), describers convey the visual image that is either inaccessible or only partially accessible to a segment of the population.

"In addition, the visual image is often not fully realized by people who see, but who may not observe. Description may also benefit people who prefer to acquire information primarily by auditory means and those who are limited-by proximity or technology, for instance-to accessing audio of an event or production. While description was developed for people who are blind or visually impaired, many others may also benefit from description's concise, objective 'translation' of the key visual components of various art genres and social settings."

This publication is a portion of Joel Snyder's dissertation for his PhD in audiovisual translation/audio description from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona's CAIAC (Center for Ambient Intelligence and Accessibility) in Spain.  Snyder is the President of Audio Description Associates, LLC, and Director of ACB's Audio Description Project.  He began work in audio description with Margaret and Cody Pfanstiehl in 1981 and has trained describers and introduced description throughout the United States and in more than 30 countries.  (Posted June 25)

New Described TV Shows

ABC is now describing Mistresses and Motive.  USA Network has announced a new series with audio description, plus they are adding description to two popular series returning this summer.  The shows are Graceland, Burn Notice, and Necessary Roughness.  (Updated June 25) 

Audio Description Podcast

We now have a 24 minute podcast (audio MP3 file) entitled, Audio Description:  Where and How?  Produced by ADP webmaster Fred Brack, this podcast covers all four major opportunities for listening to audio description:  live theatre, television, movies, and videos (DVDs and Blu-ray discs).  Sections of the podcast are also excerpted throughout this website on the four applicable topic pages.

The podcast is accessed via the Audio Description tab, where you'll find a link to listen to it or download it and offer feedback, or use this link now:  AD Podcast.  (Posted April 10)

Video Description Schedules

In addition to the fine listing of described TV shows provided by Sebastian Andrade-Miles, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is now providing an online service customized by zip code and service provider.  Start on their Described TV Listings page, enter your zip code, then choose your service provider on the next page, along with date and start time.  You can then narrow your choice by Children's, Movies, or Other.  There is a link for feedback to the AFB on this new service on the first page.  (Posted Mar 12)

Audio Description Public Service Announcements

Recently Arts Access, based in Raleigh, NC, was able to get a local NBC affiliate, WNCN, to put together a 30-second PSA (Public Service Announcement) promoting live audio description.  The spot features clips from NC Theatre's production of Broadway's Spamalot, with a voice-over by audio describer (and ADP webmaster) Fred Brack, description by describer Paula Marston, and a brief appearance by Fred's wife, Kathy, obtaining a receiver from equipment manager Thom Haynes.  View the PSA.

The American Foundation for the Blind has also produced a PSA featuring TV host Jeff Corwin, but that one discusses video description Watch the AFB PSA (or alternate MP4 format).

It's always surprising how many people with visual impairment know nothing about audio description or video description, so hopefully these spots will encourage others to work with local TV outlets to promote the availability of description!  (Posted Mar 5)

Audio Described White House Tour

The White House now offers an audio tour, which features welcoming remarks from Mrs. Obama followed by a room-by-room audio description of the highlights and features of the White House.  The audio tour must be requested at the time the tour reservation is made through a member of Congress, at least 21 days in advance.  Read the Press Release!  (Updated Feb 7)

Rick Jacobson, Audio Describer

Rick Jacobson is an audio describer from the Twin Cities area.  Averaging over 20 shows described each month, the area needs good audio description, and an article in the Pioneer Press tells us what a great job Rick does!  This is excellent reading for all audio describers.  (Posted Jan 15)

Sign the Movie AD Petition

Want more audio described DVDs and Blu-ray discs?  (For instance, Warner Bros, Lionsgate, and Anchor Bay have NONE.)  Sign the petition - please!  (Posted Jan 2)


Video Description Research and Development Center

The Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center (VDRDC) investigates innovative technologies and techniques for making online video more accessible to blind and visually-impaired students and consumers. Through collaboration with a broad array of partners and stakeholders in the Description Leadership Network (DLN), they are developing advanced video annotation methods for use in a wide variety of educational settings, as well as helping educators and other description providers make better use of the tools already available.  Read more about the VDRDC and their projects!  (Posted Dec 18)

Cinemark Installing AD Equipment USA-Wide

Cinemark, one of the largest motion picture theater chains, recently announced that it is installing audio description equipment in ALL of its cinemas, with a completion date of mid-2013.  California cinemas have already been so-equipped.  Donna Pomerantz, President of the California Council of the Blind, said: "We are pleased with Cinemark's support for audio description. This national initiative makes first-run movies available to millions of patrons who are blind and visually impaired. They deserve to participate in this quintessential American experience."  More info.  (Posted Oct 3)

The Projected Image:  A History of Disability in Film

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will dedicate the month of October to exploring the ways people with disabilities have been portrayed in film.  The special month-long exploration will air Tuesdays in October, beginning Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. (ET).  All twenty-one classic films shown will be audio described.  Read the announcement and view the schedule.  [The links have been deactivated]  (Posted Sept 25)

Sign a Petition Asking Movie Studios to
Provide AD Tracks for ALL their Movies

Pointer Have YOU signed yet?

A lady named Hillary Kleck has created a petition to be sent to eleven major movie studios asking them to provide audio description tracks on ALL their movie releases.  While some studios like Sony and Universal have been pretty good about this, others like Warner Brothers have been terrible, and no studio describes all their releases.  Hillary is concerned mostly about the impact on blind children, but the issue affects everyone with vision impairment, which may include many of us with "normal" vision sooner or later.

Regardless of your own vision situation, if you agree with this cause, please read and sign the petition.  Thanks!  (Updated Aug 14)

2012 Winners of ADP Achievement Awards

The winners of the 2012 Achievement Awards for Audio Description are:

  • Achievement in Audio Description - Media:  Described and Captioned Media Program, Spartanburg, SC
  • Achievement in Audio Description - Performing Arts:  Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, Louisville, KY
  • Achievement in Audio Description - Museums:  National Park Service, Washington, DC
  • Achievement in Audio Description - International:  Track One Communications, New Delhi, India
  • Dr. Margaret R, Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description - Research and Development:  Dr. Philip Piety, Silver Spring, MD
  • Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description:  Alan Woods, Columbus, OH

Reference:  Press Release.

Video Description Restarts

July 1, 2012 was the date for the FCC to be able to once again mandate video description for the top TV networks.  Many shows now have description tracks, but the problem remains how to access the description.  We discuss the options on our Television page, and we are reporting specific user experiences as we receive them.  An interested party has also kindly provided us a link to a monthly listing he has compiled of described shows by time and network.

Users are asking questions and reporting suggestions on our online Discussion List.  If you have cable or satellite TV boxes, you should also contact your provider and insist that they help you through this transition!  (This will be more successful if you are in one of the top 25 TV markets...)  If you are unsuccessful, contact the FCC via the method described on their own encyclopedia page, which we link to on the Television page.  (Updated July 10)

Universal's Commitment to AD on Rental DVDs is Now Effective (Starting With "American Reunion")

In response to a complaint from the Audio Description Project, Universal Pictures has agreed to include audio description tracks on rental DVDs starting in mid-July when they are also available on retail DVDs.  Specifically, Universal said:  "DVS will be added to all new-to-market DVD and Blu-ray rental releases that are specifically Universal Pictures productions."  Up until now, the AD tracks were omitted from rental copies, which has been a huge source of irritation and disappointment to blind and low vision renters.  (Updated July 17)

Whitney Museum Verbal Description and Touch Tours

As the preeminent institution devoted to the art of the United States, the Whitney Museum of American Art presents the full range of twentieth-century and contemporary American art, with a special focus on works by living artists.

Explore the Whitney's permanent collection or special exhibitions with a highly skilled museum educator trained to provide vivid, detailed description of the works on display. Visitors are also able to experience a selection of works through touch. Whitney Verbal Description and Touch Tours provide an opportunity for visitors who are blind or have low vision to experience the richness and diversity of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American art. These ninety minute tours are free and are held monthly as well as by request with three weeks advance notice. To place a request, inquire about the next scheduled tour, or sign up for our email list, please contact Whitney at [email protected] or (212) 570-7789.  The Whitney Museum is located at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street.  (Posted June 26)

Audio Description Institute:  Describer Training

Wow -- 25 Attendees!

One of the rare opportunities to learn how to be an audio describer arises in July as part of the ACB's Annual Conference in Louisville, KY.  The Audio Description Institute will be taught by Joel Snyder, who has taught audio description all over the world (most recently in Iceland!).  Read all about the Institute and join Joel this July in Louisville.  Alternatively, there is another opportunity for training at the LEAD Conference in Boston in August.  (Updated July 10)

Young Described Film Critic Contest

Once again we are soliciting entries for the Young Described Film Critic Contest, and we rely on YOU to find those young critics and let them know about the contest!

Young people with visual impairments ages 7 to 18 can enter in 3 age categories and win prizes.  They simply type or record their review of any described movie.  (How about one of the described DVDs to the right???)  Complete instructions can be viewed and printed on our site, and entries can be made online at the Listening Is Learning website.  Go find those young folks NOW!  The deadline for entries is June 8.  Hurry!  (Updated June 5)

Art Never Seen

Art Gallery

An art gallery in Poland has shown an exhibition featuring only audio description of artworks. The exhibition is intended to reveal how visual art is made accessible for people who are blind or vision impaired and celebrate audio description as an art form in its own right.  Visitors to the gallery find only headphones hanging on the wall!  Read more ... and watch a video ... (Posted May 15)

Free Described Dance Event in DC May 19-20

The Audio Description Project has arranged for free tickets and limited free transportation for vision-impaired patrons and one guest of the renowned AXIS Dance Company's performances on May 19th and 20th in Washington DC.  [link outdated].  (Posted Apr 26)

All AMC Movie Theaters in Illinois to Get AD

In a settlement reached on April 4th with the Attorney General, AMC Theatres has agreed to supply captioning services and audio description technology at all of its theaters by 2014. Right now only 10 of the 246 theaters offer AD. Read more in the Chicago Tribune. (Posted Apr 10)

Access Services Video

Audio describer Ellen LaVan Schindler was recently interviewed along with the Broward Center's guest services director Garry Novick and open captioner Lew Balaban for an "On Stage With Iris Acker" video on the subject of Access Services.  You can view the video online.  (Posted Mar 27)

Audio Description at London's Paralympic Ceremonies

Audio commentary for partially sighted and blind people at the Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies will be available for the first time in 2012.  The Paralympics are in London, starting in late August.  Audio description is planned to be available at all paralympic and olympic sporting events, according to an article from the BBC.  (Posted Mar 14)

Accessible Media Inc. (Canada)
Brian Perdue, Director, Programming, TACtv

We used to operate as the National Broadcasting Reading Service, and one of our divisions was description provider Audio Vision Canada (AVC).  We have rebranded the company to Accessible Media Inc. and merged AVC into a division of The Accessible Channel (TACtv).

We just completed our first original series - Accessibility In Action - a 13 half-hour series that inspires and informs about people living with disabilities.  On December 4 we premiered a new original documentary, A Whole New Light, that looks at the medical and scientific progress and research going on in the area of vision loss here in Canada.

What makes this unique is that our Description Producers worked closely with the Producer of the program so that all the Described Video has been integrated and imbedded into the production of the program.  We did not use a 'third' voice, and no description was added after the fact.  Either through the Narrator, or how questions were asked and/or directing how Interviewees answered, all description is completely within the program.

We also have been working with the CBC to provide 'LIVE' description on several events. The specific shows air on CBC with DV through the secondary audio channel (SAP) and with open description simultaneously on The Accessible Channel.  To date we have done the following 'live':

  • Royal Wedding
  • Canadian Federal Election
  • Canada Day Ceremonies
  • Gemini's - Canadian Television Awards
  • Remembrance Day Ceremonies
  • Battle of The Blades - 17 part Reality Show.

We are also planning to do the ISU Grand Prix Figure Skating Finals from Quebec City on Dec 11th.  (Posted Dec 6)


Seeing The Arts With Your Ears:
The Fundamentals Of Audio Description

Americans for the Arts, the national arts service organization, has posted an article by Joel Snyder on the fundamentals of audio description.  Click the image below to read the article.  (Posted Aug 24)

An audio describer in action!

VDRDC:  Developing 21st Century Tools for a New Age of Video Accessibility

The Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center (VDRDC) investigates innovative technologies and techniques for making online video more accessible to blind and visually-impaired students and consumers.  Through collaboration with a broad array of partners and stakeholders in the Description Leadership Network, they are developing advanced video annotation methods for use in a wide variety of educational settings, as well as helping educators and other description providers make better use of the tools already available.

For more information, visit Smith-Kettlewell's VDRDC website for the latest research and development efforts in the field of video description:


Special Halloween Broadcast

Carnival of Souls PosterMonday, October 31 is Halloween 2011!  Celebrate the horrific holiday with ACB Radio as the web-based radio station streams the full movie Carnival of Souls, completely audio described!  ACB Radio and ACB's Audio Description Project continues its collaboration with VITAC, the nation's largest captioning company, and a Halloween tradition of presenting accessible horror classics.

The 1963 film was not popular with critics or audiences on release, but has since become a cult classic, inspiring the likes of George Romero (director of last year's described Halloween movie:  Night of the Living Dead) and David Lynch.  Enjoy this creepy, atmospheric nightmare and have a Happy Haunted Halloween! Tune in at 8:00 pm EDT at  for all of the film's spooky effects described in full by ACB's own Audio Description Project.  Listen in for the scare of your life!

Produced in collaboration with VITAC, it's also available for free at VITAC's website - - and on VITAC's YouTube channel:  (Posted Oct 27)

FCC Reinstates Video Description

On August 25, the FCC voted unanimously to reinstate video description effective July 1, 2012.  One of the reasons for choosing this date was to make it fully in effect at the beginning of fall 2012 series.  Read Commissioner Clyburn's statement or additional information at COAT [link defunct].  (Posted August 25)

Arts Access LogoVideo Interview With Arts Access Inc.
Raleigh, NC

Arts Access has been "Making the Arts Accessible to People With Disabilities" in the Triangle area of NC since 1982.  In the early 90s they began offering audio description of live theatre.  Recently, they were featured on a local Public Broadcasting Television program called NC Now.  You can view the 8-minute story (first in the program), which features interviews with Arts Access, a describer, a patron, and a local theatre company manager.

Arts Access has been on a road to expansion to take their base mission statewide.  Additional funding in the past two years has allowed them to become a statewide service organization which provides training to arts venues on disability awareness as well being a resource for their efforts to become accessible.  A newly revised website has links to various resources as well as information about audio description services.  (Posted July 19)

2011 Conference Award Winners

The Audio Description Project and the Described and Captioned Media Program announce the 2011 winners of Audio Description Awards and the Young Described Film Critic Conference.  Congratulations to:

  • Audio Description Awards:  Harry A. Jessell, Mimi Smith, Rebecca McGinnis, Joshua A. Miele, and Dr. Barry Cronin
  • Film Critic Awards:  Chante Richardson, Kimberly Kim, and Rebecca Baumgarten

Read all the details in the Press Release.  (Posted July 20)

Broadway Accessibility/Audience Expansion Initiative

That's what Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts calls their initiative to open up more Broadway shows to Deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons and blind and low-vision audience members than ever before through enhanced accessibility services and innovative technology.  For those patrons with vision problems, the initiative is called D-Scriptive -- prepackaged audio description available at every show of select Broadway performances.  Read more about the initiative from the Alliance, or read a Wall Street Journal article. The first D-Scriptive show was Catch Me If You Can on June 8th at the Neil Simon Theatre on W 52nd Street.  Three other shows follow later.

UPDATE:  Read Technology Helps Blind to See a Broadway Show  (Updated July 11)

ACB Reply Comments to FCC Re Video Description

Eric Bridges of the ACB recently submitted his reply comments to the FCC regarding Video Description.  His comments specifically reflect the ACB'd view of recent industry comments.  Read the reply comments.  (Posted June 8)

Bringing Theater to the Blind

Ellen LaVan Schindler, a graduate from the 2010 ADI training, was recently featured in a Miami Herald article entitled, "Bringing theater to the blind." The article is a good reminder of how valuable audio description is to those who need it! (Updated April 27)

Blindspot:  Listening Awareness Month

To honor "Listening Awareness Month" [in March], our friends at the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) in conjunction with the American Council of the Blind have made a film available on YouTube called Blindspot.  It's an intimate portrait of two young blind New Yorkers who embrace the city of New York on a daily basis, and, of course, the film is captioned and audio described!  Children in grades 5-12 (plus adults) should enjoy this video.  (Posted March 21)

FCC Adopts Two Key Provisions

The FCC has adopted two key provisions of the newly enacted 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act without the need for discussion:

  • Reinstatement of the video description rules previously adopted by the FCC in 2000.
  • Rules requiring providers of advanced communications services and manufacturers of equipment used for those services to make their products accessible to people with disabilities.

At the same time, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has praised CBS, FOX, PBS, TCM, and TNT for having voluntarily continued producing some shows with description even after the FCC's mandate was overturned in 2002.  (Updated March 4)

Response to DOJ Notice of Proposed Rule Making Regarding "Movie Captioning and Video Description"

You can read comments made by both the American Council of the Blind and the project director for the Audio Description Project, Joel Snyder, at this link to our forum archive:  Audio Description Comments [link is dead now...].  You'll notice that Joel, like many of us, objects to the term "Video Description," although the government is unlikely to change the established terminology.  (Posted Jan 27)

Audio Description Seminar Planned

A 2-day  Advanced Research Seminar on Audio Description (ARSAD) will be held at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona starting March 24, 2011.  The objective is "to bring together practitioners and researchers in order to map the current status of Audio Description (AD) profession and research" via six panels covering Merging Modalities; AD Sound and Delivery; Theoretical Approaches to AD; AD in Practice:  Theatre, Opera, Cinema; Perception/Reception; Linguistic and Cultural Aspects.  For more information, visit  (Updated March 4, 2011)


iPhone Application to Find Described Movies

Captionfish now offers a FREE iPhone application which will search for audio described (and/or captioned) first run movies near you.  It also offers (captioned but not described) previews of those movies. Search for Captionfish in the Apps Store.  (Posted Dec 15)

Video Programming and Emergency Access Advisory Committee Formed

On December 7, 2010, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the establishment and appointment of members of the Video Programming and Emergency Access Advisory Committee, an advisory committee required by the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. 

Four work groups will cover 1) Internet protocol based closed captioning; 2) Pass through of closed captioning and video description; 3) Emergency information; and 4) Accessibility of user interfaces, apparatus functions, on-screen text menus, and video programming guides and menus provided on navigational devices.  The first committee must report within six months, but the others have until April 2012.

Read the Announcement and Membership List.  (Posted 12/8/10)

President Obama Signs "Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act"!!!

Friday, October 8th, the President signed the "Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act," finally bringing to a close the eight year battle to restore the FCC's authority to mandate video description, now updated with many new facets to include, for example, accessible video equipment and programming via the Internet.  Click the photo to view the signing, or Read a Transcript of the Signing.

President Obama Signs Bill

The provisions of the bill don't mandate video description until October 2011.  There are many steps left to make description available on TVs and cable boxes.  For more details, visit our Television page.