Audio description, or AD, is a spoken track that runs alongside the main broadcast providing a blind or partially sighted person with a description of the visual things happening on screen. AD is used where there is no dialogue from the program during silent periods. It describes elements like facial expressions, movement, gestures, body language and activity. The voice used for AD is a real person. 

AD is not provided for every program. AD is available for programs like soaps, films, on most digital broadcast channels, catch up and streaming services across a wide range of platforms and devices as well as some cinemas where a headset can be used or DVDs.

Setup

AD can be turned on and off as and when required. Most remotes that accompany television sets have a dedicated AD button in order to do this. Once enabled, it is not required to be turned on each time it is needed. The AD option can also be found within menus built into the television which can vary from model to model.

A number of web based Video On Demand services provide AD on films and TV programmes across various platforms like smart television, smart phones, tablets, computers via various apps, streaming sticks and set top boxes.

Use

AD can be used on most UK based broadcast channels like BBC, ITV, Sky and catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, 4 On Demand, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video. AD is useful if you do not have enough vision to see what is happening but want to be able to tell what is going on during a television broadcast, film or documentary where there is no dialogue.

Verdict

Without the use of AD, a blind person misses out on various story lines and plots as the physical actions can be just as significant as the dialogue. Various things like facial expressions and body language contribute to take the story forward. AD paints an audio picture of the onscreen content, helping blind or partially sighted people enjoy and experience of television programs and films just as sighted people do.

Further resources