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Digital Accessibility

Audio Descriptions

Audio descriptions provide a narrative of the visual content for those who are blind, low vision, or unable to see the screen for any other reason.

Consider Audio Descriptions for All Videos

Video thumbnail of Sarah, a former USC student, sitting with her hands in front of her at a table in a campus computer lab.
Example of a video with extended audio descriptions that accommodate content with few natural pauses in narration.

Videos that contain visual information, such as on-screen text, complex charts, or important actions, need audio descriptions to be accessible for people who:

  • Are blind or low vision.
  • Are in a situation where they are unable to see the screen.
  • Learn more effectively by hearing information.
  • Are non-native speakers who want to improve comprehension. 

When possible, it's best to verbally identify and describe visual information in the original audio track. For example, this can be accomplished in a video interview by having each speaker introduce themselves and briefly describe their appearance before they launch into the Q&A. Audio descriptions also may not be necessary for a video that is simply text on a background where the narrator is already reading the text verbatim.

Frequently Asked Questions about Audio Descriptions

To write helpful audio descriptions, make sure you’re capturing all relevant visual cues and contextual information from your videos. Include information such as important actions, scene details, and characters entering or leaving the screen.

Writing Audio Descriptions »

Depending on your tools and resources available, you have a couple of different options for how you record and add audio descriptions to your videos. 

Adding Audio Descriptions to Videos »

In general, a descriptive transcript is not a replacement for audio descriptions of a video. However, if someone else created the video and you don't have any way to edit it, you can at least provide a descriptive transcript that contains a text version of all the important visual and audio information in your multimedia.

The process for writing a descriptive transcript is similar to writing a basic transcript, but should also include the visual information from your video. In this format, the Audio column holds the information from your captions or basic transcript, and the Visual column holds the visual information that would ideally be your audio descriptions.

Example of a Descriptive Transcript:

Audio Visual
Video isn't just about pictures, it's also about sound. Without the audio, you would have to guess what this film is about. A man sitting at a desk starts watching a video on his computer.
[no sound] The video on his computer shows a person speaking to the camera. It is playing with no audio.
Frustrating isn't it? Not knowing what's going on. That's the situation for everyone who can't hear. The man watching the video has a hearing aid.

This example of a descriptive transcript is from the Web Accessibility Initiative.

Paid Description Services

Audio Description Service Providers can write audio description scripts, record the descriptions, and provide a final audio track for you. It may be worth outsourcing your audio descriptions if you have a lot of highly visual content in your videos that you need to describe.


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