Read Maya-Liam's blog on their favourite audio described television programmes from this year.
I’m Maya-Liam Haynes, Social Media Assistant at RNIB. I’m visually impaired and an avid TV watcher and audio description user. Audio description (AD) is a track added to a TV show that slots in between the dialogue to describe important visual cues that might be missed, like body language, facial expressions or when someone enters or exits a room.
Here I’m going to review some of this year’s top telly - a mix of my favourite shows and 2019’s biggest TV hits.
One of the most anticipated TV shows of the year and my personal all-time favourite was RuPaul’s Drag Race UK! Sadly, AD wasn’t included reliably on BBC iPlayer. That being said; I adore the show and a lot of it is easy enough to follow without AD as it’s almost entirely audio-led and RuPaul and Michelle Visage do a great job of describing the outfits and makeup they’re judging.
It’s really encouraging that Netflix is so committed to including AD on many of its biggest and newest releases. Popular drama The Crown included audio description automatically so there was no fiddling around with duplicate videos to find the AD version. A royally good result!
The Bodyguard also featured audio description. It’s fantastic that such a big TV event of 2019 was audio described as it aired on prime-time television. At the moment, broadcasters are legally required to ensure that just 20% of their programming is audio described.
I love all the soaps (which are all audio described) but my personal favourites in 2019 were Hollyoaks and Coronation Street. Coronation Street has an omnibus edition on a Saturday morning where I can watch the entire two and a half hours with audio description. Hollyoaks is fantastic and the audio description is gripping – and if I want to watch the ‘first look’ episode on E4 straight after the main show, no problem – that’s audio described, too.
In the absence of audio description on prime-time TV, if it’s something I really want to watch, I either try my best without it, or skip the programme altogether. Strictly is one I tend to miss out – the whole show is so visual, that without a good knowledge of dance and no audio description, almost all of it is lost on me.
X Factor: Celebrity, on the other hand is completely audio-led, with the show being almost entirely based on singing ability and the staging and lighting is often described by the judges. This show really works for me.
A newer addition is enhanced AD, which is very similar to standard AD, except it describes certain aspects of the programme that are likely to be relevant and especially interesting to the particular audience of that show. I’ve watched a few episodes of Keeping Up with The Kardashians that have enhanced audio description which went into specific details about clothes and makeup – something that really added to the programme for me.
AD brings TV to life and makes a massive difference to blind and partially sighted people like me. Including AD makes entertainment accessible and inclusive to everyone. I’m hoping that all broadcasters make adding AD to their shows their New Year’s Resolution for 2020.