Why You Should Add Audio Descriptions to Explain the Visual Content of Videos

What is an audio description?  It is a soundtrack that describes visual content that would not be evident from subtitles or closed captions alone.  The descriptions don’t explain every detail, but convey the general visual content.  Here’s a website from UC Berkeley and a website from WebAIM that have more information. This a good example.

While the technology has been utilized in the entertainment industry, its application in education is less common.  If you want to show videos in your course that contain important visual content that is not described by subtitles/closed captions, consider adding audio descriptions for those with visual impairments.  Adding audio descriptions also helps auditory learners and provides experience for those learning in a second language.  The practice even helps those without disabilities in situations where they cannot watch a video, but can listen.

It’s possible to embed the audio descriptions so they can be turned on or off, or to make them a permanent part of the video.  You can create the descriptions yourself, in which case you may find this website helpful.  Or, there are companies that can create the description tracks for you.  The American Council of the Blind maintains this website listing companies in the USA.

What if you can’t provide audio descriptions for a video that should have them?  Write out the description and provide it as an optional transcript.  A transcript can be read by screen readers for students with visual impairments, or read by anyone wanting to review.

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