This page contains selected news items previously featured on our main page,
starting in 2015.
For previous AD news articles, see our listing from 2010 to 2014.
This Justice Department signed a "Final Rule" affecting the ADA Title III. "The Final Rule requires movie theaters [which have digital equipment] to: (1) have and maintain the equipment necessary to provide closed movie captioning and audio description at a movie patron's seat whenever showing a digital movie produced, distributed, or otherwise made available with these features; (2) provide notice to the public about the availability of these features; and (3) ensure that theater staff is available to assist patrons with the equipment before, during, and after the showing of a movie with these features." However, theaters will have 18 months to comply, and the minimum number of devices required for AD is less than 1 per screen. (Updated Dec 3)
Republican lawmakers apparently forced the FCC to pull four agenda items "in the wake of the election" from their previously announced November 17 meeting schedule including the following, according to Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). (See FCC Article. Updated Nov 26)
Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010: The Commission will consider a Report and Order which addresses the amount of video described programming required to be made available to consumers. (MB Docket No. 11-43).
Users of Comcast's XFINITY X1 cable box should now be able to access Netflix directly, including with voice access! Try it out and let us know how well it works for finding and accessing the 250 described shows on Netflix. Netflix/Comcast article. (Updated Nov 15)
We alluded to preliminary findings of the recent ACB survey earlier, but the final survey results have been published. Not surprisingly, 3/4 of survey participants want more audio description, and half have difficulty finding described programs. Check the link for more details. (Posted Nov 1)
ANA will be the first airline in Japan to deliver universally accessible entertainment on international flights. The service starting in November 2016 includes subtitles to help hard-of-hearing passengers understand dialogue and musical lyrics, as well as audio "explanations" [the word they use] to communicate on-screen movements and scenes to visually impaired customers. Both subtitles and audio "explanations" will be available in English and/or Japanese. Read the ANA Press Release. (Posted Oct 25)
The number of first-run movies with audio description has increased dramatically. Read more in: Human voice is key to unlocking movie magic for the blind.
The number of audio describers for live theatre continues to grow. Here's a great video report about one of them at the Metropolitan Washington Ear: These Volunteers Are Bringing Plays to Life For the Visually Impaired (NBC).
And here's another great piece from our friends "down under," highlighting the value of a tactile tour: I love theatre and I’m blind. Here’s how that works. (Updated Oct 18)
The Who's Tommy is running through November 20, 2016 at the Silver Spring Black Box Theatre in Maryland. All performances will be accessible (audio description, ASL integrated into the show, and captioning available). Open Circle Theatre is "Washington DC’s first professional theatre dedicated to producing professional productions that integrate the considerable talents of artists with disabilities." (Posted Oct 18)
The Young Described Film Critic contest is back ... with a new name and hundreds of dollars of gift cards as prizes. Sponsored by the ADP and the DCMP (Described and Captioned Media Program), it is open to students ages 7-21. Each contestant must submit a written review of a described movie or video. Read all about it at our Badie Page! The deadline is November 30, but don't wait. (Posted Oct 18)
We are pleased to make available a copy of Gregory Frazier's May 1975 Master's thesis on audio description, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman: An All-Audio Adaptation of the Teleplay for the Blind and Visually Handicapped.
The late Mr. Frazier, a professor at San Francisco State University, formally developed the concepts behind audio description and general guidelines for its use.
Read more about Mr Frazier and his thesis. (Posted Oct 11)
The Visuals Into Words Project was created on the premise that "A deeper understanding of how images are transferred into words is still needed." Accordingly, they created a free 15 minute film (translated to several languages) that anyone can use to study "how audio description is approached by different describers in diverging cultural environments and also how end users receive the audio described content." Even a present describer may find it useful with which to practice their own description techniques. Take a look! (Posted Sep 27)
On August 2, the FCC released a Public Notice to remind covered manufacturers and multichannel video programming distributors (cable, satellite, and more) about the approaching December 20, 2016 compliance deadline for two new requirements:
Survey says ... only 2% of people with visual impairment feel they are getting enough audio description. That's part of the preliminary results of the recently concluded ACB survey. And when compared to the accommodation for the deaf community, it is an "injustice when captioning can exceed such a wide breadth of coverage across broadcast channels, while the blindness community is relegated to a handful of hours each week during prime time." Read more about the ACB Survey. (Posted Aug 2)
There will be a special showing of The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years (which includes 30 minutes of rare footage from the Beatles’ historic 1965 Shea Stadium concert) on Wednesday, September 15, in 80 movie theaters prior to its release to 50 theaters the next day. The film's audio description track was sponsored by Woman of Her Word, written and produced by Audio Eyes, and voiced by professional voiceover artist Michele Spitz. While the film will be available on Hulu starting September 17, Hulu does not offer audio description, and neither the Hulu release nor the subsequent DVD will include the Shea Stadium concert. (Posted Sep 13)
"NEW YORK (AP) - Two people in a recording booth deep inside a Connecticut office park are helping millions of blind Americans feel part of the Olympics like never before." Read more about the story behind live audio description at the Olympics.
Comcast XFINITY customers (only) can replay the Rio Opening and Closing Ceremonies with description using OnDemand. (Updated Aug 24)
Audio description for select movies, right from your own SmartPhone ... as long as you speak Dutch! You can read about what's going on in The Netherlands with their product called Earcatch in English, though, and watch their demo. Earcatch in English; Earcatch in Dutch. (Posted Aug 2)
A new company called Actiview promises to eliminate the problems that patrons have with movie theater-issued accessibility equipment. "When you step into the theater, all of the movie’s accessibility content will be available at no extra cost in our mobile app that requires no in-theater setting, fussing or maintenance." They aim to eliminate the frustration currently occuring with faulty receivers, dead batteries, etc. As one early reviewer put it, "Phone in pocket, enjoy the movie. That’s it." The smartphone product is still under development. Learn more about Actiview. (Posted July 21)
On May 27th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on expanding audio description. This NPRM would significantly increase access to audio described programming on broadcast and cable networks. You will find a link to the FCC's NPRM below. It proposes the following key rule changes:
ACB has long been the leading advocate for audio described television content. We welcome the FCC's proposed rule and look forward to submitting comments on the benefits such expansion will have for Americans who are blind or visually impaired. While the first round of comments were due June 27th, reply comments are not due until July 26th. This gives individuals an opportunity to respond to industry concerns. ACB will be holding a national conference call the week following our 2016 ACB National Convention in Minneapolis, and in the meantime we encourage you to submit your own personal story on how audio described programming has positively impacted your life.
USE THESE LINKS to view the proposal, see other people's comments, and submit your own comments: (Updated July 19)
Zagga is a new start-up service offering exclusively described movies and series across a variety of genres, mostly older videos initially. There are future plans actively in the works for new content. There is a 30-day free trial with a $7/month membership; but if you listen to an interview with founder Kevin Shaw by CoolBlindTech, you might get a longer trial! (The TEDx Talk by Kevin Shaw is also worth listening to.)
We haven't got audio description from Amazon or Hulu yet, but a website called Pornhub (we assume the name is sufficient to indicate its content) is now offering a subset of its content in a category named "Described Video." They have started with 50 videos with a wide variety of content. A company representative says, "It's our goal to service all of our users' needs, which begins with making content accessible to every individual." More in an article in the SFO Guardian. (Updated July 19)
Apple's is offering OVER 300 movies with audio description tracks. You can tell an individual movie offers description because iTunes shows an icon right after the icon under the title. You can also search in iTunes for "audio description," but don't expect the listing to be complete. See our list of the described movies on iTunes. Learn about all streaming service options via our new Streaming page. (Updated June 15)
During the past year, Netflix has introduced 150 shows with audio description tracks. Now, after engaging in a "structured negotiation settlement" with the ACB and others, they are even further committed to accessibility. For example, by the end of 2016, all Netflix platforms (like iPads) should be fully accessible, including features such as searching for described shows. Read about the Netflix settlement. Of particular interest: This settlement paves the way for similar negotiations with Amazon, Hulu, etc.! (Posted Apr 19)
Facebook has just introduced a feature called AAT, or Automatic Alternative Text, which will attempt to describe posted images to people with visual impairment who use VoiceOver on iPhones or iPads (initially). Read about Facebook's AAT feature. (Posted Apr 5)
Disability Rights Advocates is investigating complaints from blind individuals who report that the Amazon Video and Hulu websites and mobile applications are not accessible, and from blind individuals who want audio description tracks to be made available on Amazon Video and Hulu. They would greatly appreciate speaking with you if you are blind and you have either confronted access barriers yourself while using Amazon Video or Hulu, or you have chosen not to subscribe to Amazon Video or Hulu because you have heard about access barriers. To share your experiences, please contact Julia Marks by phone at (510) 665-8644 or by email at email@example.com. (Posted Apr 5)
Disney has announced that their Disney Movies Anywhere iOS app supports external synchronization of audio description on 16 Pixar movies like The Good Dinosaur, the Toy Stories series, Inside Out, Brave, and more, which are purchased and viewed outside the app. Read about this streaming audio app and other streaming video apps on our new Streaming page. Read a review of the app which also explains exactly how to use it (courtesy of WonderBaby.org). (Updated Apr 5)
A class action lawsuit has been filed against AMC movie theaters for not keeping their audio description headsets in working condition. The suit was filed only after complaints by patrons and an attorney were ignored. Read about the lawsuit. (Posted Feb 17)
We have two new features to take note of: a new "Streaming" category of audio description information (the last of the 12 tabs at the top of each page), and accessibility options for larger font and reverse colors have been moved to the top of each page, rather than using a separate web page. (Posted Feb 16)
So you think this website is all we do? Heck no! Check it out: the Audio Description Project Activity in 2015. And while you are at it, check out our updated Mission Statement and summary of our projects. (Updated Jan 29)
Who is Litton Entertainment, you ask? They produce a lot of children's programs which are aired Saturday mornings on various networks (see our TV page), and Bridge Multimedia provides the audio description for those shows (over 2000 to date!). See the list of programs and awards. (Posted Feb 2)
The return of THE X-FILES is being described on Mondays at 8pm ET; and LUCIFER premiered Mondays at 9pm ET. Two other new series with description: Cooper Barrett's Guide To Surviving Life (Sundays at 8:30 pm ET) and Bordertown (Sundays at 9:30 pm ET).
Find out what shows are audio described at what times by viewing the ADP Master Schedule of Described USA TV Programs. (Updated Jan 26)
On December 28, 2015, Accessible Media, Inc. (AMI) in Toronto announced the passing of Robert Pearson, Accessibility Officer. Robert was a leader in the audio description field, a principle force behind AMI's accessible channel which provides description for all programs broadcast. He was Chair of the FCC's Disability Advisory Committee Video Programming sub-committee. He also attended ADP's conferences and was a special guest speaker at the most recent ADP gathering. ADP's director, Joel Snyder, commented: "Robert was a good friend and an important advocate for audio description in Canada and beyond. He will be missed by all." (Posted Dec 30)
As of December, Netflix is offering over 115 movies or series with audio description. They recently announced that in 2016 they are doubling the amount of original programming, and they previously told the ACB that they would be audio describing all new original shows; so this is a huge amount of described programming coming next year! See our list of described Netflix titles and read our page on Accessing Audio Description on Netflix. (Updated Dec 22).
The FCC has issued Public Notice DA 15-1366 with a reminder of the requirement now in effect that broadcasters have visual scrolling emergency notices "conveyed aurally through the use of a secondary audio stream," preceded by a tone. For program distributors (such as for tablets), the requirement is in effect mid-2017. (Posted Dec 8)
Attention Star Wars fans! The six sagas have been rereleased (with description) as Steelbooks - collectable metal covers with a large Star Wars figure on each cover. The complete series of six has also been rereleased in a single package, but not as a Steelbook. All of them are Blu-ray only. Read more about the Star Wars Steelbooks. (Posted Dec 4)
Even the small independent movies theaters can find funding for the equipment necessary to pass along audio description and closed captioning to patrons. Read how a New Hampshire theater added accessible films in a state where only 3 other theaters offer description. Separately, read about how a Connecticut theater welcomes people with disabilities. (Posted Nov 24).
We have recently discovered that certain Blu-ray discs released in the UK with description tracks are available on Amazon in the USA Region-Free, which means they will play on USA Blu-ray players. The description is most likely British English. We are only adding those listed as "fulfilled by Amazon" starting with the following:
There are many others listed, but you need to order from individual sellers, such as MovieMars. To learn how to locate and purchase any of these videos, read our new web page, Ordering UK-Produced Described Videos in the USA. (Posted Oct 27)
As of September, Netflix is offering over 110 movies or series with audio description. See a list of described Netflix titles (new ones recently added, along with the type of each video; e.g., TV Series). For the series, some of them are fully described, while others are still in the process of updating back episodes. (For example, all three seasons of House of Cards are available with description NOW, and the quality of the description is very good.) Netflix has contacted numerous audio description companies to arrange for future description. Read our page on Accessing Audio Description on Netflix. You'll learn good things such as setting your description option once will be remembered for all future videos. (Updated Oct 6).
A company called Litton Entertainment produces 17 education-oriented television shows for three television networks on Saturday mornings. All the shows are different, and all are audio described by Bridge Multimedia. We are now listing all the shows on our TV page, along with links to the show descriptions. The networks and the links to the show descriptions are:
Note that this is our first listing for described shows on the cable network known as The CW (the C is for CBS and the W is for Warner Bros, the co-owners). Since description is not required on The CW broadcast network, not all affiliates are able to broadcast description and/or pass it to the local cable company. (Updated Aug 25)
If you do not have video description passed through from your local TV stations yet, you may wish to check to see if you are in one of the top 60 markets. The FCC's standing order is for the number of markets served to expand from 25 to 60 by July 1, 2015. For more information, check out our new page on Changes Coming to Video Description Rules.
Also effective July 1: The History Channel replaces Nickelodeon as a required non-broadcast channel for audio description, and ESPN continues to be exempt. Read the FCC Order. (Updated Aug 25)
Audio Description and the Future - Children ARE the Future!
The importance of blind children and their proper education can never be underestimated. The main aim of the symposium is to support our children by creating a bridge and a dialogue between researchers in such disciplines as linguistics, typhlopedagogy and developmental psychology, and practitioners of Audio Description, exploring findings in work with blind and visually impaired children. We shall discuss the present state of affairs of audio description in Poland, Europe and the US, in order to work out a framework for cooperation between:
- institutions protecting the rights of the blind and the visually impaired
- government, and
All of these entities have significant influence on children's everyday lives and future. The symposium will be preceded by a two-day workshop on audio description (Monday and Tuesday, September 21-22) led by Dr. Joel Snyder, an amazing trainer, one of the world's first audio describers, the President of Audio Description Associates, LLC (audiodescribe.com), and the Director of the American Council of the Blind's Audio Description Project. View: our official webpage and our facebook page. (Submitted by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, SWPS University, Warsaw; Posted Aug 4)
Attendees at the July ACB Conference in Dallas, TX, got to experience a rodeo -- with audio description, courtesy of Joel Snyder, ADP Director and audio describer. Read all about how this came about and the 60 attendees' reaction in the following article: Rodeo vision: Attendees experience arena event with other senses - Blind people take in the Mesquite Championship Rodeo. (Posted July 28)
In March of this year, Susan Glass, an audio description consumer and advocate who is active in Audio Description Project committees, wrote an article for the ACB Braille Forum entitled, "Best Audio Holiday Season Ever." The piece, which describes her experiences with audio description last December, won this year's Ned E. Freeman Writing Award, which is awarded to the author of a Braille Forum article that demonstrates a mastery of the craft of writing, interesting subject matter, originality in recounting an experience, and novelty of approach. (Posted July 28)
More and more museums are adapting their tours and collections to people who are blind. From the Smithonian to museums in Raleigh and Dallas, special tours are being developed, docents are being trained, and rubber gloves are being donned to let people with visual impairment appreciate the collection more. Read: At Some Museums, Blind Visitors Can Touch the Art. (Posted July 28)
Based on measured viewer interest, the FCC updated the list of non-broadcast stations required to supply "video description" on July 1. The History Channel replaced Nickelodeon. Since this is new to them, they are starting cautiously, describing select earlier episodes of programs which are repeated, rather than committing yet to delivering description for first-run episodes. The programs which are currently on the list for description are Counting Cars and Pawn Stars, with a few episodes of American Picker. As they work their way through this, they are providing a listing of all the shows, dates, and show descriptions at a special History Channel link. This information is also available on our TV page. Welcome to the world of audio description, History Channel! (Posted July 28)
"On June 1 Tom Wlodkowski, Comcast's VP of Accessibility, proudly accepted the FCC's Advancement in Accessibility Award. [Note: The ACB nominated Comcast for this award!] The award is part of the FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative, an effort that encourages dialogue between companies, developers, government and consumers about accessible solutions. The talking guide received similar recognition from the Associated Services for the Blind, the American Association of People with Disabilities the American Foundation for the Blind and the Blindness Awareness Expo, an event hosted by The PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, PA Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, and the Advisory Committee for the Blind of Pennsylvania." See also Comcast's Blog Posts on Accessibility. (Posted June 26; from Comcast's "Community Update: Accessibility")
The following Audio Description Project awards were presented at the annual July ACB Conference in Dallas, TX. You may also view the full Press Release. (Posted July 7)
This year the Audio Description Project will meet for one afternoon as part of the annual ACB Conference in Dallas, TX, in July. For a detailed agenda and links to more information, visit our 2015 ADP Conference page. (Posted June 23)
Você fala Português? If you speak Portuguese, you'll be pleased to know that Dr Joel Snyder's Book, The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description, is being translated to Portuguese for availability soon. In addition, Polish, Swedish, and Spanish version are in the works. Humorous side note: There was no good translation for "The Visual Made Verbal" in Portuguese, so they used CONSTRUINDO IMAGENS COM PALAVRAS, or "Building Images With Words." (Posted June 9)
After lots of social media pressure (spearheaded by Robert Kingett, behind the scenes work by the ACB, and supported by a recent ADP Twitter post, among others), Netflix has finally agreed to offer audio description on some present, future, and past videos plus Netflix series. The turning point was MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL. In addition, HOUSE OF CARDS, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, and more are already described. This includes preexisting episodes. (For instance, all three seasons of House of Cards are available with description NOW.) 70 shows have description so far! Read our page on Accessing Audio Description on Netflix. You'll learn good things such as setting your description option once will be remembered for all future videos. (Updated June 9).
A brand new bilingual (English/Spanish) audio description tour is now available at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY, a place honoring the nation's only president with a disability. You can even download the tour for listening on your own -- all 14 hours worth -- in individual sections. (Posted May 8)
On May 6, Hawaii governor David Ige signed House Bill 1272 requiring audio description and captioning to be available in movie theaters when provided by the film distributor beginning January 1, 2016. "Every motion picture theater that has more than two facilities in the State to which the general public is invited shall provide closed movie captioning and descriptive narration, upon request, during at least two showings per week of each motion picture that is offered for viewing at the motion picture theater; provided that this subsection shall not apply when a motion picture is offered for viewing at the motion picture theater for less than one week." (Posted May 6)
Dr Joel Snyder's Audio Description Institute continues to attract a record number of enrollees; so here's another opportunity to be trained or "refreshed" as an audio describer this July. The Institute will be held on July 8-10 in conjunction with the ACB's 2015 Annual Conference and Convention in Dallas. ENROLL NOW! For full information, see the AD Institute brochure. (Posted Apr 9)
Last fall, Comcast announced an enhancement called Talking Guide to its XFINITY X-1 remote controller to improve accessibility for its customers with vision impairment. The X1 remote now also supports voice control, and Comcast now has a web page dedicated to accessibility (www.comcast.com/accessibilitysupport).
March 3: Listen to a podcast by Cullen Gallagher on how to use the XFINITY X-1 Accessibility features (excerpt courtesy of ACB Radio's Main Menu podcast, David Tanner host). Note, the introductory music covering the voice goes away after 20 seconds.
At the recent Academy Awards presentations, Comcast sponsored an ad called Emily's Oz, which showed how a little girl who is blind envisions the characters in the Wizard of Oz movie. The ad ends with a reference to the capabilities of the Talking Guide. Below you will find a 6-minute video (with audio description) of how the ad was made. Click it to play. For more information, visit Emily's Oz. (Updated Apr 25)
Arena Stage in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the ACB and the Audio Description Project, is audio describing every performance of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike from April 10 to May 3. Read the press release about the audio description at Arena Stage. (Updated Mar 17)
Dr Joel Snyder's Audio Description Institute in Washington, DC, attracted a record number of enrollees; so here's another opportunity to be trained or "refreshed" as an audio describer! The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is sponsoring Joel for the second time in conjunction with their Leadership Conference in Phoenix. The Institute will be held on April 8-10. ENROLL NOW! For full information, see the AD Institute brochure. (Updated Mar 3)
The president of the ACB, Kim Charlson, was recently interviewed for a segment on Boston's WGBH television, the local PBS outlet. She emphasized how valuable audio description has been for her in the enjoyment and complete appreciation of movies. The recent Department of Justice proposal requiring movie theaters to install description and captioning equipment was addressed, too. You can view the 4 minute segment below by clicking it, read the article in print, or click here for an audio version.
Another ACB member, Carl Richardson, also enjoys going to movies that feature audio description. He was recently featured in an article in the Boston Globe entitled, Devices give blind filmgoers Oscar-worthy experience. (Posted Feb 25)
The AFB (American Foundation for the Blind) has honored our ADP Director, Joel Snyder, PhD, with a 2015 Access Award (one of eight given) as "an ardent advocate for audio description, [who] has led training sessions throughout the world in the art and technique of describing television shows, movies, theater productions, as well as museum tours and other cultural activities for people with vision loss. He is the author of The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description." Congratulations, Joel!
Other Access Award winners were: Comcast, Microsoft, MIPsoft, Odin Mobile, Texas Instruments Education Technology, Orbit Research, and American Printing House for the Blind (APH). Given annually, "the Access Awards honor individuals, corporations and organizations that eliminate or substantially reduce inequities faced by people with vision loss." Read more about the Access Awards. (Posted Feb 4)
Audio description lost one of its earlier visionaries and advocates on Christmas Eve. Founder of RP International, TheatreVision, and sponsor of the annual Vision Awards Dinner in Los Angeles for 40 years, Helen Harris even got George HW Bush to voice a film description. Read an interesting article about her life in the LA Times. (Posted Jan 6)
Arena Stage in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the ACB and the Audio Description Project audio described every performance of Fiddler on the Roof from November 6 to January 4. Coming soon: Every performance of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike will also be described from April 10 to May 3. Read the press release about the audio description at Arena Stage. (Updated Jan 6)