Accessibility in Audiovisual Content: Audio Description

subtítulos para sordos

In our last post on audiovisual accessibility, we talked about subtitling for people with a hearing impairment. This time, we’re going to focus on another main method for making audiovisual content accessible to people with disabilities: audio description for the blind.

Of course, having translation professionals like those here at Tatutrad who know about accessibility is fundamental for such a task, as the audience will only be able to fully understand the audiovisual content if it is correctly audio described. If you have audiovisual content that you need to make accessible, we’d love to help!

But what exactly is audio description? The process involves narrating the visual content (what appears on a screen or a work of art in a museum) so that it is accessible to as many people as possible.

In a way, it involves “translating” the images into words to create accessible content. Audio description could therefore be considered a type of audiovisual translation in which a translation is produced for the blind.

What must we remember?

When talking about audio description, we usually refer to audio description for the blind; however, this process can also make content more accessible to the elderly or people who are visually impaired, but not necessarily blind.

We must also remember that blindness may or may not be from birth, and therefore there will be concepts that are difficult for people who are born blind to visualise and that we must try to avoid. This occurs, for example, with colours.

Knowing how to include audio descriptive content in the pauses marked by the audiovisual content is also key. In other words, if a character in a film is talking, we can’t start describing the scene at the same time, as you won’t be able to hear either the audio description or the character well.

Other factors must also be considered, such as audio description best practices or regulations that establish a series of guidelines that should be followed when describing any audiovisual content.

Which content can be audio described?

The types of content that can be made accessible thanks to audio description are very diverse. Here we’re going to tell you about the most common, but in reality, nearly all content can be made accessible.

  • Audio description for cinema or series is the most conventional. The process is very similar for both as the content does not differ hugely, with the only real difference being the duration. Here, we can also include short films, YouTube videos, training courses, documentaries, etc.
  • Audio description is also common at events and ceremonies, such as the Goya Awards, Spain’s annual film awards which are audio described. In these instances, pre-recorded or live content can be audio described.
  • Audio description for museums and monuments is perhaps the least known, but by no means is it any less important. At the end of the day, it is also cultural content that should be available to all. More and more of this type of cultural content is accessible to the blind.
  • Although mobile apps and software in general can be made accessible for people with impairments, in reality audio navigation tends to be used instead of audio description, whereby a system that “reads” the different options for the user can use the software without any problem. Although this counts as another way of improving software accessibility, it is not audio description per se.
  • The case of video games is unique, as ideally both methods would be combined to make a video game accessible to people with a visual impairment. However, given the complexity, there is still a long way to go.

What are the steps to create an audio description?

It’s a highly complex discipline, but if we did want to briefly summarise the main steps to create a description, we could mention the following:

  1. First, the work must be viewed in order to analyse it and any notes considered necessary or pertinent are made.
  2. Second, a script of the audio description must be written, including the in and out times.
  3. Next, the content must be looked at again to revise and correct possible errors in the script. Ideally the script should be read out loud to detect any potential changes that need making.
  4. Finally, the audio description is recorded using the proper equipment and, for videos, the description is embedded. (There is no need to embed the audio if it is a museum audio guide, for example).

Here at Tatutrad, your translation agency based in Seville, Spain, we have professional translators who’ll be delighted to make your audiovisual content accessible. If you require our services, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact form on our website.