by Christopher Gray and Joel Snyder

As many of you know, the American Council of the Blind has been the principal advocate of audio description in our nation, particularly on television and film. We were front and center at the FCC in 2002 when that government agency put forward a rule requiring description on broadcast television. Although the rule was struck down in the courts, its brief existence prompted the establishment of description for a number of programs.

ACB has similarly been active in encouraging the Department of Education to fund description. Almost all broadcast description that exists today is funded with this support.

ACB is a founding member of COAT, the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, the entity that recently has done more than any other to promulgate the 21st Century Communications and Accessibility Act of 2008. A key provision of this act will revive the FCC's 2002 rule mandating the addition of a description track to broadcast television.

It is in keeping with this proud history that ACB is undertaking an exciting next step. At its November meeting, the board of directors approved the establishment of the ACB Audio Description Project. The model for this project is taken in part from activities and achievements of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the United Kingdom. (For more information on RNIB's current work, visit: )

It is ironic that our friends in the United Kingdom have managed to far surpass the U.S. -- the home of description -- in the availability of description in all genres. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that the RNIB has for many years employed a seasoned promoter of this work who manages advocacy for description throughout the U.K. In addition, the RNIB has itself been an active producer of description for television and film.

Our Audio Description Project will be led by one of the first professional audio describers, an active promoter of description, and the leading trainer of describers world-wide: our own life member Joel Snyder. Throughout 2009, the ADP will focus its resources on advocacy and training with the following goals and objectives as part of its overall operating plan. Build advocacy on behalf of audio description

We'll seek to establish an audio description advocate and/or committee within every ACB affiliate; produce a monthly e-mail communiqu‚ updating recipients on legislative action regarding the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act and other relevant legislative matters; rejuvenate the service organization Audio Description International (, including the administrative maintenance of ADI's listserv and web site; and sponsor an annual gathering of description users and describers as part of the ACB annual convention. Offer a range of educational resources and work to establish standards for quality description in its various genres

With broad input from the field of description users and description providers in all genres, we'll strive to create a certification program for describers and establish a bi-annual ACB Audio Description Institute to be held once a year in Washington, D.C., with another training opportunity as a part of the annual ACB convention, and establish audio description awards in a variety of categories. Encourage growth of audio description with an emphasis on the involvement of AD users/consumers, especially youth

We hope to establish the ACB Young Described Film Critic of the Year competition, and develop and provide "I Can Describe That!" workshops for sighted siblings of blind children, involving the latter as critics of their siblings' description efforts. Disseminate information on audio description and provide general support for regional, state, and local forums

We will create and disseminate a directory of audio description providers and services; increase the reach of the ADI web site and listserv and overall service to users of description, including referrals for describers, AD providers, and schedules for described performances/events; and provide an on-line directory of resources and equipment information. Heighten awareness among the blind population and the general public

We will seek alliances for support of public service announcements and other public relations efforts to educate the public regarding audio description; we will pursue the development of audio-described tracks in formats that appeal to the general public as well as to people who are blind or have low vision. Encourage studies on audio description, its efficacy as a technique for conveying visual images and its impact on literacy for children and others

We will collaborate with various agencies such as the American Foundation for the Blind on specific studies; in collaboration with academic programs in this country and abroad, seek support of these efforts; look for support/collaboration with various established audio-visual translation programs in audio description already pursuing such research in academic programs abroad.

We are excited at the prospect of ACB taking yet another bold step in the promotion of audio description in the United States and throughout the world. We are convinced that description is not simply about access to entertainment. It's about literacy for our children and those who have other types of learning disabilities. It's about providing keys to our culture so that we may become more familiar with media (television and movies), museums, theater, and other everyday events, and become more engaged and engaging individuals. And, by the way, that makes it possible for us to be more socially integrated into society and gives us stronger employment skills.

So as we embark on this ambitious new initiative, we emphasize that it will only be as successful as the support you provide! We urge you to respond to this article with your ideas or questions, and brainstorm with us on how we can make the ADP a success. Please direct your comments to Joel Snyder at [email protected] or telephone Joel at ACB's national office after Jan. 1, 2009.

Previous Article

Next Article

Return to Table of Contents

Return to the Braille Forum Index