Audio Description (AD)
If you are finding it difficult to watch your favourite television programmes or films, you can enable audio description (AD).
What is Audio Description?
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 on TV
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:
- All Freesat devices deliver audio description which can be enabled using the AD button on the remote control. Some people may need assistance to find this button.
- Visit the YouView website to find out more about AD on YouView boxes (this includes other linked services including BT TV, TalkTalk TV and Plusnet) or AD on the YouView interface for Sony TVs.
Visit our television section for further information about audio description, accessible TV devices, TV listings and TV licence concessions.
Audio Description on Video on demand
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’.
Most of the main providers in the UK now offer AD, the key providers are listed here:
- BBC iPlayer
AD is available on the iPlayer website and via the iPlayer app on most other platforms including iOS, Android and connected TV.
- ITV X
AD is available on the ITV X app on iOS and Android.
- Channel 4
AD is available on the Channel 4 website and via the Channel 4 app on iOS, Android and Apple TV.
AD is available on the My5 website and via the My5 app on most other platforms, including iOS, Android and connected TV's.
AD is available on the Netflix website and via the Netflix app on most other platforms, including iOS, Android and connected TV's.
- 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.
- Apple TV+
AD is available on all Apple TV+ originals, on the Apple TV website and via the Apple TV 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
AMI Player is a Canadian service that’s also available to UK viewers. It has general interest programmes with integrated AD on its website.
Audio description in cinemas
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.
Audio description in theatres
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.
Audio description in museums and galleries
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.
Accessibility of Immersive Environments
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. Some of these techniques have also been used 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.
Audio description apps
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