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.
To get audio described TV programmes, you’ll need digital television. You get digital TV via Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media, Freesat and YouView. This is either built into your television or it’s a set top box connected to your television.
Find out more about audio description 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.
Audio Description in cinemas
Many cinemas are equipped with a system that delivers audio description (AD) through a headset, which is provided when you collect your ticket. The audio description 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:
Audio description in museums and galleries
Museums offer audio description in a variety of ways to support access to their exhibitions, events and sites.
Recorded audio descriptive guides to special exhibitions or permanent galleries can help you to 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.
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.
A number of web based video on demand services deliver AD on films and TV programmes.
Broadcaster-led: 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’.
Independent 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:
Most of the main providers in the UK now offer AD, the key providers are listed here:
If you'd like any further information please call our Helpline on 0303 123 999.
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