Audio Description: The Visual Made Verbal

By Joel Snyder.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Audio Description (AD) provides a verbal version of the visual for the benefit of people who are blind or have low vision. Succinct descriptions precisely timed to occur only during the pauses in dialogue or significant sound elements of performing arts or in media allows persons with vision impairments to have greater access to the images integral to a given work of art. AD enhances film and video, broadcast television, live performances and museum exhibitions--a wide range of human endeavor. While intended as an access technique, AD has been shown to be useful for anyone who wants to truly notice and appreciate a more full perspective on any visual event. For instance, by using audio description, children’s books can be made accessible to kids who have low vision or are blind *and* can help develop more sophisticated language skills for all kids. A picture is worth 1000 words? Maybe. But the audio describer might say that a few well-chosen words conjure vivid and lasting images. This 60-minute workshop will introduce participants to the principles of audio description, how to produce quality description, and the importance of close communication with the “end users”—people who are blind or have low vision and all people who support this innovative use of technology to provide greater arts access.

Keywords: Blindness, Accessibility, Media Art, Performing Arts

The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.99-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 553.126KB).

Joel Snyder

Director, Described Media, National Captioning Institute, Vienna, VA, USA

Joel Snyder is known internationally as one of the first audio describers. He began describing arts events in 1980 with the world’s first ongoing audio description service in Washington, DC. His work made hundreds of live theater productions accessible to visually impaired audience members; in media, Mr. Snyder used the same technique to enhance PBS' American Playhouse productions, ABC and Fox network broadcasts, feature films, the IMAX film "Blue Planet" and the Planetarium show "And A Star To Steer Her By" at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. As Director of Described Media for the National Captioning Institute, he leads a staff that produces description for nationally broadcast films and television series including “Sesame Street” and DVDs. Mr. Snyder’s Audio Description Associates develops AD tours for museums throughout the United States including the Enabling Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Internationally, he introduced description techniques in Japan, Israel, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, Norway and Finland; conducted description workshops in London, Prague, and St. Petersburg, Russia; and trained describers for first-ever audio description programs in Sofia, Bulgaria and Moscow, Russia.

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