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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 a production team has opted to add them to media. When available, they are typically housed under the same menu as captions and subtitles.

Unfortunately, mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter/X, TikTok, and LinkedIn do not support audio descriptions because you cannot add multiple audio tracks to a video uploaded directly to those sites.

An option for making accessible videos with audio descriptions for social media 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 during production, then export your video and audio together as one file, and then upload the finished video to social media.

Much like viewers cannot turn off open captions, anyone who views this media would be unable to disable your hybrid audio descriptions because they would be packaged with the rest of the video’s 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 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.  

The video sharing site Vimeo does allow users to upload multiple audio tracks, but the feature is limited. You can only add one additional audio track per uploaded video if you have a free Vimeo subscription. Paid members can add up to 20 audio tracks per uploaded video. The feature is found under Captions and Audio along the right side of the screen when editing a video.

YouTube has also been testing the ability to add multiple audio tracks to help provide descriptive audio and additional language dubbing. However, the feature is still being rolled out and currently only available to a limited number of content creators.

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/X, 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/X 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/X.

Not only is this a great way to make the Twitter/X 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!