If you are finding it difficult to watch your favourite television programmes or films, you can enable audio description (AD).
Audio description (AD) is additional commentary that explains what’s happening on screen. AD describes body language, expressions and movements, making the programme clear through sound.
We spoke to blind and partially sighted people about why AD is so important to them – watch our film now:
Audio description (AD) is available on all broadcast television, including Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media, Freesat and YouView. Find out more about AD for Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media:
Further information for Freesat and YouView:
Visit our television section for further information about audio description, accessible TV devices, TV listings and TV licence concessions.
Read about the latest developments and products in television, radio and film for blind and partially sighted people:
A number of web-based video on demand (VOD) services deliver AD on films and TV programmes.
There are two types of VOD services:
These are services from television broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, which allow their programmes to be watched for some time after the original broadcast (often for 30 days). These are commonly known as ‘catch-up services’.
These are services such as Netflix, iTunes and Amazon Prime. The services allow users to access their content libraries at any time on a vast range of devices. These are also known as ‘streaming services’.
In order to use these services, you’ll need a device that can connect to the internet. VOD service providers make their content available online in a number of different ways, the most popular is via a website or an app. You can normally view the content in the following ways:
By streaming: You must be connected to the internet for the duration of the time that you’re viewing the programme, streaming requires no download to your device.
By downloading to your device: You’re able to take the content away and watch it anywhere.
Most of the main providers in the UK now offer AD, the key providers are listed here:
AD is available on the iPlayer website and via the iPlayer app on most other platforms including iOS, Android and connected TV.
AD is available on the ITV Hub app on iOS and Android.
AD is available on the All4 website and via the All4 app on iOS and Android.
AD is available on the My5 website and via the My5 app on most other platforms, including iOS, Android and connected TV.
AD is available on the Netflix website and via the Netflix app on most other platforms, including iOS, Android and connected TV.
Amazon Prime Video
AD is available on the Prime Video website and via the Prime Video app on most platforms, including iOS, Android, Fire TV and other connected TVs.
AD is available on all Apple+ originals, on the Apple+ website and via the Apple+ app on most platforms, including iOS, Android, Apple TV and other connected TVs.
AD is available on the Disney+ website and via the Disney+ app on most other platforms, including iOS, Android and connected TVs.
AD is available on a selection of films and TV programmes on most platforms, including iOS, Android, Apple TV and other connected TVs.
AMI Player is a Canadian service that’s also available to UK viewers. It has general interest programmes with integrated AD on its website.
Many cinemas are equipped with a system that delivers AD through a headset, which is provided when you collect your ticket. The AD generally runs each time the film is shown and is undetectable to anyone not wearing a headset.
For more information visit the FAQs page on the Accessible Screenings UK website.
Many theatres across the UK provide audio description. This is generally available at one or two performances for each production, and is delivered via infrared, radio or WiFi to a receiver that audience members usually book in advance when purchasing tickets.
Introductory notes describing the visual world of the show and its characters are often made available to audience members in advance of the audio described performance, which is usually immediately preceded by an onstage touch tour, where audiences can familiarise themselves with the set, handle costumes and props, and meet some of the actors.
To find out if there are audio described shows at your local theatre, check their website or contact them directly.
Several organisations provide listings of audio described performances:
Access London Theatre: audio described shows at theatres in London.
Audio Description Association: venues and companies that run audio description services, listed by region.
Audio Description Association Scotland: upcoming audio described performances delivered in theatres across Scotland.
Hynt: upcoming audio-described shows in Wales: audio described performances in theatres and arts centres participating in Hynt, the national access scheme in Wales.
VocalEyes: all upcoming audio-described theatre shows: VocalEyes delivers around 180 audio described performances around the UK every year. Its website lists these and many other audio described shows in theatres across the UK, though mostly in England.
Museums offer AD in a variety of ways to support access to their exhibitions, events and sites.
Recorded AD guides to special exhibitions or permanent galleries can help you enjoy independent visits to the museum, at any time. They usually include descriptions of highlight exhibits, with directions in between to help you navigate through the gallery. The recordings are often available online, for downloading or streaming through your own device. Alternatively, the museum may provide handsets on site.
Live audio descriptive tours will usually take place on a specific advertised date. They offer the opportunity to experience the highlights of an exhibition or gallery as part of a group, and may include the option to touch or handle artefacts. Some museums will offer live audio described tours on request – these often require pre-booking, so check with the individual museum.
The VocalEyes website lists events and provision at many museums, but do also contact individual museums for full details of what they offer.
Immersive experiences, including 360 degree video (360), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR), need to be accessible for people with sight loss. It's an emerging technology but videos shot in 360 degree formats, for instance, have been made accessible through audio description, audio subtitles and immersive sound. These techniques may also be used in future to make video games accessible, especially for cutscenes.
RNIB seeks to support and advance excellence in the delivery of accessible experiences to people with sight loss, nationally as well as internationally, by collaborating with other organisations.
Find out more about our pioneering work:
Apps offer an efficient solution for people who are using connected devices for multiple tasks. Aside from audio description, these apps can open up a whole new dimension for viewers who prefer to watch films or TV programmes in an alternative language.
You can find out more information on our audio description apps page.
We’re RNIB and we're here to make sure society is inclusive for blind and partially sighted people. We're passionate about AD and ensuring it's available to blind and partially sighted people. Here are our proudest campaigning moments:
1990s: Blind and partially sighted people could rent AD films, including classics like Casablanca, from RNIB’s video cassette library.
1992: European Project, Audetel, underway. The project developed a system designed to make television accessible to people with sight loss through AD. RNIB joins the project team of eight partners to make this happen.
1996: Broadcasting Act mandated AD via terrestrial digital transmission. RNIB works with stakeholders across the board to ensure end-user needs are taken into account.
2001: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone releases in UK cinemas with AD. RNIB worked with UK Film Distributors and UK Cinema Exhibitors to ensure there were many more releases.
2003: Communications Act extends the 1996 legislative requirements to include digital cable and digital satellite providers. Many more people are introduced to AD for the first time and RNIB starts receiving calls from end users who would like to discuss their TV experience.
2010: 20th Century Fox released its first Bollywood film with AD in two languages, Hindi and English, following RNIB's Bollywood Audio Description Project. UK Cinemas offered the option to viewers – use the AD in English or Hindi. The AD track was put on the film's DVD for all regions and was circulated across the globe. Until the launch of descriptions in multiple languages on Netflix in 2015, the film – My name is Khan, was the only film to offer AD in English and the original language of the film – Hindi.
RNIB and Goodmans launched the world's first talking Freeview box. This opened the door for further innovation – TVOnics, Panasonic, Samsung.
2012: Broadcast of Channel 4's opening ceremony with AD of the Paralympics attracted more than 250,000 viewers from across the country. RNIB was part of a working group to make this happen.
2017: More than 150,000 hours of TV was broadcast with AD in the UK including dramas, documentaries, films, sitcoms, reality TV etc. P&G announces it will audio describe all its adverts.
135 out of 202 English language films released in the UK were available in cinemas with AD. Nine out of the top 10 films each week had AD.
2018: RNIB receives support from Ofcom and broadcasters for an industry campaign to increase public awareness of AD. Broadcasters including the BBC, BT, Channel 4, ITV, Sky, UKTV and Viacom broadcast adverts to promote their AD services throughout the summer and early autumn.
2019: Apple TV+ and Disney+ take the lead by becoming the first services in the world to offer access services including AD at the time of launch.
2020: RNIB awards Tried and Tested certification to Samsung in recognition of the accessibility features within their TV.
2021: BT Sports becomes the first UK broadcaster to offer AD on the live broadcast of a football tournament. Disability Cup 2021.