Exploring the World of Described Video: Enhancing Accessibility and Inclusivity in Media

March 11, 2024
Featured image for “Exploring the World of Described Video: Enhancing Accessibility and Inclusivity in Media”

In today’s digital age, media consumption has become an integral part of our daily lives. From streaming services to traditional television broadcasts, we are constantly exposed to a vast array of content. This is why making content accessible to all audiences is so critical. You’re likely familiar with closed captions and subtitles, but how much do you know about described video? Today we’re going to dive into all things described video and why it’s so important.

What is Described Video?

headphones on purple background

Described video, also known as Video Description or Described Narrative in Canada, is a specialized service that provides additional narration to convey visual elements of a program or film to blind or low-vision individuals. It offers a verbal description of key visual elements such as actions, scene changes, settings, wardrobe, body language, on-screen text and facial expressions, enabling these individuals to form a mental image of the content. With these descriptions of what is on screen, the consumer can gain a complete understanding of the content that wouldn’t be possible solely by listening to the video alone.

Types of Described Video

Since one tool does not fit all cases, two types of described video can be used depending on the content and needs of the audience.

woman listening on headphones

Standard Described Video is added during natural pauses in dialogue in the original content. The descriptions must be concise to fit into the allotted time while still providing enough information to properly convey what is on screen. Having any overlap in audio makes it difficult to understand and can distract from the content. However, having too few or irrelevant words can be confusing. Striking the right balance and selecting the perfect words takes skill and experience to pull off.

This type of described video works best for content with frequent pauses, limited details, and few changes in visual elements that need to be described.

man listens to audio with headphones

Extended Described Video allows for the original content to pause so there is adequate time for the descriptions. In this case, the original video and the described video audio tracks will still overlap but it allows for the original video to pause for the descriptions to continue. Once the described video has finished, the original video will start again, and so on.

This is typically utilized when there aren’t long enough pauses in the original content or there are a lot of visual elements that must be described.

Why is Described Video Important?

Described video plays a vital role in making media more accessible and inclusive to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. By providing detailed audio descriptions of visual elements, described video enables these individuals to fully participate in and enjoy a wide range of content.

accessibility symbols

AODA Requirements

The AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) sets accessibility requirements for organizations in Ontario and helps ensure a barrier-free province. Ontario Businesses must follow the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) to prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities. One of the five standards under the IASR is the Information and Communication Standards which mandates that organizations in Ontario must ensure that their information and communications, including multimedia content, are accessible to people with disabilities, including those who are blind or have low vision. So organizations are encouraged to provide described video as part of their efforts to make multimedia content accessible.

Woman listens to computer audio with headphones while cooking

Further Benefits to Described Video

While described video is crucial for blind and low-vision individuals, it can be equally as beneficial for sighted people! In the same way people utilize closed captions to supplement their viewing experience, sighted people are discovering that audio descriptions can be enjoyed as a compliment and/or alternative to watching a video. By providing additional context and detail, described video can help viewers better understand complex scenes and nuances that may not be immediately apparent. It also allows for people to enjoy content while doing other tasks like cooking, driving or commuting to work. They may not even watch the video at all and simply listen to their favourite TV show while out for a walk.

Hand Clicks Computer Keyboard Video Starts

As our society continues to consume an increasing amount of video content we must also continue to strive for a more inclusive society. Described video will undoubtedly play an essential role in ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy our growing digital age.

Looking to add Described Video to your video content? Contact 5Gear Studios today to get started!


AODA Web Accessibility Guidelines for Videos

Described Video Canada

How to Meet WCAG

The Ultimate Guide to Audio Description

What is the Information and Communications Standards?