What Is Audio Description?
Audio description is a feature built into a video that provides verbal descriptions of visual elements of a visual production. This post focuses on videos produced for entertainment purposes, like movies and television shows.
Other videos benefit from audio description, including education-related and how-to videos and recordings of meetings and conferences held via distance technology. Often, the audio description needed in these videos is based more on voicing text-based information presented on the screen rather than describing characters’ actions.
The ACB’s Audio Description Project is an incredible and unparalleled source of information about audio description.
In 2009, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) took the helm of the then-seven-year-old volunteer-driven project: Audio Description International (ADI). In doing so, ACB provided resources to sustain the work and an environment where this project could grow into the treasure trove of audio description that it is today. Find out more on the ACB Audio Description Project’s All About Audio Description web page.
ACB’s Audio Description Project provides general information, updates lists of available audio-described videos, and provides tools for aficionados to discuss and dream.
Social media, listservs, and more
ADP on social media:
- Twitter: @ADPwebmaster
- Facebook page: Audio Description Project of the American Council of the Blind
- Instagram: AudioDescriptionProject
Social media not sponsored by the ADP, but mentioned on its website:
- Audio Description Discussion: for everyone
- The ADNA Showcase: for anyone who provides professional audio description services
- Audio Description Horror Films: for anyone who is into the horror genre
More informational web pages from ADP:
- Podcasts Covering Audio Description
- USA Audio Description Service Providers
- International Audio Description Information
Includes links to sessions from the June 2023 Audio Description Conference as well as links to sessions from past ADP Conferences.
Great information for training to become a professional Audio Describer as well as background information about AD. Includes:
- Audio Describer/Narrator Training
- Audio Description Training Materials
- Educational Description
- Academic Articles
ADP’s Lists of Available Audio-described Videos in Theaters, on DVD, on TV, and from Streaming Services
The ADP provides regularly updated and searchable lists of videos that are available from many major streaming services. Note: While most videos are in English, the ADP has a web page dedicated to “Non-English AD.”
ADP’s Master List is aptly named. This list encompasses a plethora of titles (as of September 3, almost 10,000 titles) available from a dizzying array of sources – both free and fee-based. and links to sub-lists. Each title on the Master List shows where it can be found. Just check out this listing of 101 Dalmatians:
- 101 Dalmatians (1961) DVD, ITUNES, PRIME-VIDEO
- 101 Dalmatians (1996) DISNEY+, ITUNES
- 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure DISNEY+, ITUNES
In addition to its Master List, the ADP provides pages dedicated to movies in theaters and on DVD, it provides information about audio-described videos on television and from major streaming services. Not only can you narrow your search by video type (movie or television), but you may also sort by genre and by year. Moreover, the audio-described videos on this list contain hyperlinks that take you to that video on that steaming service. Please find below the list – straight from the ACB ADP Master List web page.
- Cinema (current first-run movies)
- DVDs (and Blu-ray discs)
- TV Stations (the nine mandated plus a few more)
- Other Media (free and purchase)
- Apple TV+ (subscription)
- Disney+ (subscription)
- freevee (free; a subset of Prime Video)
- Google Play Store (purchase)
- Hulu (subscription)
- iTunes (purchase)
- Max (subscription)
- Netflix (subscription)
- Paramount+ (subscription; includes Showtime)
- Peacock (subscription)
- Pluto TV (free)
- Prime Video (subscription and purchase)
- ReelAbilities Stream (free)
- Spectrum Access (free; AD tracks for movies from any source)
- Tubi (free)
- Vudu (purchase)
Audio Description in Real Life
Performing Arts venues
The ADP’s “Performing Arts with Audio Description” web page catalogs these venues throughout the country and sets forth the information on a state-by-state basis. Here is Maryland’s entry:
- DC Arts & Access Network Calendar.
- Center Stage describes one Sunday matinee and one Sunday evening performance. 410-332-0033. Contact email@example.com.
- Every Man Theatre, Baltimore. AD upon request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Touch tours are also available.
- Olney Theatre 301-681-6636.
- Round House Theatre 240-644-1010.
- Washington Revels 301-587-3835.
Other venues with AD
ADP’s “Audio Description at Museums, Parks, Exhibits, and More!” web page sets forth information about audio description services available at museums, parks, and more such venues across America. Unfortunately, Maryland does not have an entry in this section, so we set forth information about our neighbor to the south: Washington, D.C.:
- The International Spy Museum offers an audio described tour.
- The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (aka The Kennedy Center) will provide audio description for most of its performances if requested at least three weeks in advance.
- The Library of Congress is now offering a touch tour twice a month. Press Release. News article.
- The National Gallery of Art: Audio tours providing vivid descriptions of works of art are conducted by Picture This on the fourth Wednesdays and Saturdays of each month starting at 1:00 PM in the rotunda of the gallery’s West Building. The tours last about an hour.
- The Smithsonian museums have limited audio description available in the form of information specialists and docents. Ask at the information desk. Films have description, but you need to request earphones. Specific museum accessible information call-in numbers follow:
- African Arts: 202.633.4600Air and Space Museum – Both Locations: 202.633.1000 (Request 3 weeks in advance)American Art Museum: 202.633.7970 (recording) – docent-led tour for visitors who are blind or have low vision; includes touch tours (photo below); read this late 2018 article on the American Art MuseumAnacostia Museum: 202.633.1000 (follow the prompts)Arts and Industry: 202.633.1000 (follow the prompts)Freer Gallery: 202.633.4880Hirshhorn Museum: 202.633.1000 (follow the prompts)Museum of American History: 202.633.1000 (follow the prompts)Museum of Natural History: 202.633.1000 (follow the prompts) Try the Insect Zoo Audio Description Tour onlineNational Museum of the American Indian: 202.633.1000 (follow the prompts)National Portrait Gallery: 202.633.8506. Portrait Insight Tours by request only: verbal descriptions and tactile objects included. For more information or to request a tour, email NPGAccess@si.edu. You may also listen to prerecorded audio descriptions of selected works, or download an app to listen to descriptions.National Postal Museum: 202.633.2991National Zoo: 202.633.2922Sackler Gallery: 202.633.4800
- Smithsonian Castle: 202.633.1000 (follow the prompts)
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will provide a special guided tour for blind and visually impaired visitors upon request. You can download the Audio Tour of the Museum’s Hall of Witness and Hall of Remembrance in advance for your own device, or ask to borrow one at the museum.
- The George Washington Memorial Parkway has wayside signs with tactile elements and some audio components. If you wish to experience a tour with audio components, contact the park ahead of time.
- The White House offers an audio tour, which features welcoming remarks from Mrs. Obama followed by a room-by-room audio description of the highlights and features of the White House. The audio tour must be requested at the time the tour reservation is made through a member of Congress, at least 21 days in advance. Read the Press Release!
Visit the ACB Audio Description Project Early and Often
As you can tell, the ACB’s Audio Description Project contains up-to-date information and valuable resources on all things related to audio description. Please take the time to explore the ADP, and consider breaking your trips into several visits – there is so very much available.
Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@imagemd.org
- Text: Send to: (410) 357-1546
- Voice mail: Call (410) 357-1546, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call
This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.
Updated as of September 4, 2023.