Answer: The 5,000 pound gorilla in the back of the room.
“Audio description, also referred to as a video description, described video, or more precisely called a visual description, is an additional narration track intended primarily for blind and visually impaired consumers of visual media (including television and film, dance, opera, and visual art). It consists of a narrator talking through the presentation, describing what is happening on the screen or stage during the natural pauses in the audio, and sometimes during dialogue if deemed necessary.”
Given the confusion about the official name, we usually just refer to this guideline as “description” and it has been part of some web accessibility for many years. The old Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act had some mention of this requirement, but it was vague and many understood that it only applied to “training videos.” But the new “Section 508 Refresh” – which aligns with the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG v2.0) – now has the following Success Criteria:
The intent of this Success Criterion is to provide people who are blind or visually impaired access to the visual information in a synchronized media presentation. The audio description augments the audio portion of the presentation with the information needed when the video portion is not available. During existing pauses in dialogue, audio description provides information about actions, characters, scene changes, and on-screen text that are important and are not described or spoken in the main sound track.
Clearly, the addition of description to the web accessibility guidelines will add some major challenges to those who use pre-recorded video on their websites. There will be added expense and an additional time and talent requirement in the development of video materials intended for the web. Organizations and institutions that use lots of video (think on-line educational institutions) will need to budget resources accordingly.
On May 4, 2017, our friends at 3 Play Media offered a free webinar on the topic of Audio Description. I you are concerned about that large gorilla, you may want to view the archive of the webinar…