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Past News Articles About Audio Description

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.

2016

 2016 Audio Description Award Winners

Pointer LISTEN to the 2016 Conference speakers!

Presented at the ACB and ADP Conferences.  Press ReleaseThe Audio Description Honor Roll.  (Updated July 21)

  • Achievement in Audio Description - Performing Arts: Arts Access, Raleigh, NC
  • Achievement in Audio Description - Media: Fred Brack, ADP Webmaster, Raleigh, NC
  • Achievement in Audio Description - Museums: Dole Institute of Politics / Audio-Reader Network, Lawrence, KS
  • Achievement in Audio Description - International: Bos Soluções e Serviços Ltda. - Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Special Recognition Achievement in Audio Description: Alice Austin, Eliot, ME
  • Special Recognition Achievement in Audio Description: Mark Messersmith, The Visual Voice - Mountain View, CA
  • Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description - Research and Development: Disney / Pixar "Disney Movies Anywhere App" - Los Angeles, CA
  • Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description: Dr. Francisco Lima - Recife, Brazil

The FCC Needs YOUR Input re Description on TV
COMMENT PERIOD ENDS JULY 26!!!

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:

  • Increase the amount of described programming on each included network carried by a covered broadcast station or multichannel video programming distributor, from 50 hours per calendar quarter to 87.5 (a 75% increase)
  • Increase the number of networks required to provide video description from four broadcast and five non-broadcast networks to five broadcast and ten non-broadcast networks
  • Create a "no-backsliding" rule, so a network would remain subject to the rules even if it is no longer one of the top five or top ten ranking networks; and
  • Require video programming distributors to provide proper customer support contacts in order to improve consumer access to video description.

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)

Two New Described Video Streaming Options Available

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)

iTunes Now Offering Over 300 Described Videos

Apple's iTunes is offering OVER 300 movies with audio description tracks.  You can tell an individual movie offers description because iTunes shows an AD icon right after the Closed Captioning icon under the title.  You can also search in iTunes for "audio description," but don't expect the listing to be complete.  Pointer See our list of the described movies on iTunes.  Learn about all streaming service options via our new Streaming page.  (Updated June 15)

Netflix Further Committed to Accessibility

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 Introduces "Automatic Alternative Text"

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)

Interviews of Potential or Actual Screen Reader Users of Hulu or Amazon Video

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 jmarks@dralegal.org.  (Posted Apr 5)

Disney Movies Anywhere App Offers
Audio Description on 16 Pixar Movies

Disney Movies Anywhere Logo 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 pageNew  Read a review of the app which also explains exactly how to use it (courtesy of WonderBaby.org).  (Updated Apr 5)

AMC Theaters Lawsuit

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)

Streaming and Accessibility Options

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)

Audio Description Project
Summary of Accomplishments

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)

Litton Entertainment Wins 16 Awards

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)

New USA Described TV Series for 2016

The return of THE X-FILES is being described on Fox 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).

USA Network premiered Colony Thursdays at 10 pm ET, while History Channel has started describing  repeat episodes of American Restoration, which broadcast at various times. 

Find out what shows are audio described at what times by viewing the ADP Master Schedule of Described USA TV Programs.  (Updated Jan 26)

2015

Robert PearsonRobert Pearson

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)

Netflix Audio Description Update

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).

FCC Notice Re Scrolling Emergency Text

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)

Star Wars YodaStar Wars Steelbooks Released

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)

How a Movie Theater Got Description

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).

UK-Produced Described Videos

UK FlagWe 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)

Netflix Audio Description Update

As of September, Netflix is offering over 110 movies or series with audio description.  New! 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).

TV Description on Saturday Mornings

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)

25 to 60Video Description Expanded to 60 Markets July 1

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 Education Symposium
23-24 September, 2015
Warsaw, Poland

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:
    - scholars
    - institutions protecting the rights of the blind and the visually impaired
    - media
    - government, and
    - NGOs.
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)

ACB Conference Attendees Experience a Rodeo

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)

First-Person Experience With Audio Description

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)

Museum Art Tours For People Who Are Blind

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)

The History Channel Begins Audio Description

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)

Comcast Takes Home FCC Chairman's Accessibility Award for Voice Guidance

"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")

ACB 2015 Audio Description Project Awards

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)

  • Achievement in Audio Description – Performing Arts: Jesse Minkert, Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences - Seattle, WA
  • Achievement in Audio Description – Media: Netflix – Los Gatos, CA
  • Achievement in Audio Description – Museums: Meadows Museum of Art / Southern Methodist University – Dallas, TX
  • Achievement in Audio Description – International: Anne Hornsby, Mind’s Eye – Bolton, United Kingdom
  • Special Recognition Achievement in Audio Description: Sebastian Andrade-Miles - Glendale, CO
  • Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description – Research and Development: Accessible Media, Inc. “AMI Player” – Toronto, Canada
  • Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description:  Dr. Pilar Orero – Barcelona, Spain

Audio Description Project Mini-Conference

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)

American Council of the Blind Book on Description Gets Translated

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)

DaredevilNetflix Audio Description Has Arrived!

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).

New AD Tour at FDR Presidential Library

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)

Hawaii to Mandate Description for Movies

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)

8th Audio Description Institute Coming July 2015!

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)

Comcast Expands Accessibility

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)

Audio Description at EVERY Performance!

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)

Another AD Institute Available!

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)

'Seeing Movies':  Technology Makes Film Accessible To The Blind

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)

ADP Director Joel Snyder Honored by AFB

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)

Helen Harris, 1936-2014

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)

Audio Description at EVERY Performance!

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)