Audio description. Seeing with the mind’s eye— A comprehensive training manual and guide to the history and applications of audio description
Year of publication
Audio Description (AD) makes the visual images of theater, media and visual art accessible for people who are blind or have low vision. Using words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative (via the use of similes or comparisons), describers convey the visual image that is either inaccessible or only partially accessible to a significant segment of the population. In some ways, for an access technique/form of audiovisual translation that is over 30 years old as a formal practice or area of inquiry, a great deal of progress has been made. Most notably in the U.K., where a mandate exists (albeit relatively modest) for description on broadcast television, significant strides have been made in developing the state of this art, for media, in performance (including sporting engagements), and for exhibitions. But as far as the actual practice of audio description, other countries fall far behind, including my own United States, the birthplace of the technique. It is noteworthy too that practically all research in this field originates in Europe where description is considered a form of translation and studied as such. An informal survey of American graduate programs reveals no “homes” for advance study of audio description. There is currently no comprehensive, publically-available training manual for the practice of audio description in the range of genres or formats for which description can be effective--or a guide for the training of trainers. This relates directly to research I have been conducting on description standards as they currently exist (what constitutes quality description and how can it best be taught). In addition, little exists that accurately “describes” the history of audio description’s development. Further, I have a special interest in certain areas: can description affect literacy?; what does audio description for dance performance have in common with movement analysis? In addition, the visual image is often not fully realized by people who see, but who may not observe. Description may also benefit people who prefer to acquire information primarily by auditory means and those who are limited—by proximity or technology, for instance—to accessing audio of an event or production. While description was developed for people who are blind or visually impaired, many others may also benefit from description’s concise, objective ‘translation’ of the key visual components of various art genres and social settings. This dissertation and book is grounded in my practical application of audio description techniques which I developed over the last 32 years of professional work in the field and in virtually all formats in which audio description is practiced: performing arts (theater, dance, opera), media (television, film, DVDs, web streaming), museums/visitor centers, and in other cultural or recreational endeavors (parades, sporting events, personal tours, shopping, on cruise ships—and karaoke competitions). Thus, this dissertation is structured so as to convey my experience in all audio description formats and mechanisms and a review how description applies to the observation and analysis of movement and its application to the development of literacy. Its corpus is a comprehensive training manual and guide to the history and applications of Audio Description. A special feature is the dissertation’s “associated web site”: www.thevisualmadeverbal.com which is available to all readers of this dissertation and provides practica for students of description. The corpus will be published by prior arrangement with the American Council of the Blind based in Arlington, VA in the United States of America.