Introduction to Video Descriptions

In order for blind and low vision users to access key visual elements in a video or similar media, you need to provide a description. There are two different ways to create a description that will make your video more accessible.

Audio Descriptions

An audio description is a form of narration. It adds an additional audio track to a video that can be toggled on and off by supported platforms. Audio descriptions are an accessible option on popular streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ when the creator has opted to add them to their media. When available, they are typically housed under the same menu as captions and subtitles.

Unfortunately, traditional audio descriptions are not supported by YouTube, Vimeo, or most social media platforms because you cannot upload multiple audio tracks with a single video. However, YouTube is testing the ability to add multiple audio tracks on videos to help provide descriptive audio and additional language dubbing. The feature is only available to a small group of creators at this time.

An option for making accessible videos with audio descriptions for those platforms is to create two versions of your video, one with an audio description integrated with the rest of your video’s audio and one without.

You would basically narrate the visual aspects of your video, add that narration to the final audio, and then export your video and audio together as one file. Much like viewers cannot turn off open captions, anyone who views this video would not be able to turn off your hybrid audio descriptions because they would be packaged with the rest of the audio.

Play the below video for an example of audio descriptions that have been integrated into a YouTube video's audio track. In addition to the original dialogue and music for the commercial, a woman’s voice can be heard narrating the actions and visual details in the different scenes. You’ll notice that there is no button for an audio description at the bottom of the frame, only one for closed captioning.  

Written Descriptions

Another option for making the visual elements of your video more accessible for blind and low vision users is to create a written description and have it available as readable text with your video.

Gucci did this for their “Gucci Gift 2020” holiday campaign. The campaign’s promotional video featured a 90s office throwing a retro 70s-themed party. The iconic fashion brand wrote a brief visual description of the video in the caption area on their YouTube channel and Facebook page, as shown below. Watch the video on YouTube to see the written description in the caption area.

If you’re trying to write a video description for a video on Twitter, emulate what the social media team for the Wheel of Time Amazon Prime show does.

Because many of the videos the show uses to promote upcoming episodes on Twitter are quite short and feature very little dialogue, the social media team will thread a written description to each tweet that features a video. Click into the below tweet to view the full description thread on Twitter.

Not only is this a great way to make the Twitter account’s video content more accessible, but it also makes it very clear to the show’s audience that the Wheel of Time team values inclusion. They have been commended by many of their fans and followers for creating accessible content like this. 

Additional Resources and Reading

Want to learn a little more about creating accessible video content? Check out the links below!