1.2.3 – Audio Description or Media Alternative (Pre-recorded) (Level A)

Video with audio has a second alternative

An audio description is an edited version of a video’s soundtrack that adds more information than the regular soundtrack offers. This might mean narrating movements that are not audibly explained in the video, or adding context to visual information.

The need for audio description isn’t always clear to website owners, yet it is among the most used accessibility feature in the real world. Many cinemas have audio described screenings, where film fans can use earphones that offer a different soundtrack to the regular feature. That soundtrack will be the regular one supplemented with extra information intended to help film lovers with visual impairments.

To meet this guideline, it’s easier to provide users with a text transcript instead of audio description. However, the either/or option only covers Level A. To reach Level AA you would need to offer audio description. For Level AAA you need both audio description and text transcript.

What to do

  • Provide a full text transcript of the video; or
  • Provide a version of the video with audio description .

Tips

A full text transcript is a document that includes all information present in the audio or video source. This means including any visual cues (for example, ‘The fisherman holds up a large bass.’) as well as dialogue attribution and description.

Providing audio description at this stage will fulfil Guideline 1.2.5 at Level AA but you will need both audio description and a transcript for Guideline 1.2.8 at Level AAA.

If you’re going to the length of audio description for this guideline, you can also satisfy Guideline 1.2.5 and Guideline 1.2.7 by recording extended audio description tracks wherever necessary.

Something like a straight face-to-face interview, or a speech-to-camera would probably not need audio description. If your video conveys all its information through sound, an audio description track is not needed. If you have this in your mind when you create videos, you can easily sidestep what could be a lengthy process.

If you do need to add audio description, there are a number of options available to you. You can pay a firm to narrate an alternative soundtrack for you, or you can do it yourself. As usual, it’s a case of balancing your resources of time and money.

Here’s a fun cartoon with audio description, it’s a little too talky but should point you in the right direction:

Exceptions

  • If the video is itself an alternative.
  • You don’t need an audio description if all of the information in the video is provided in the regular soundtrack.

See also

Featured image credit

  • Deaf

    Don’t forget people who are deaf and blind – audio description does not help them unless they are transcribed.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m aware of the need for text transcripts, I mentioned them several times (including in “What to do”) and linked to my past post on the issue.

  • Good stuff!
    It would have been nice to mention extended AD, as it’s a solution for an all-too-common issue with AD: the fact that sometimes the original soundtracks does not let you insert AD. If there aren’t enough silent periods in the soundtrack (that is, with no speech, and only muttered background sounds), then it might be not possible to insert AD; because overlapping voices are even worse than no AD at all, in general.

    • Hi again Olivier. Don’t worry, your love of extended audio description will be covered in a future post. I’m just tackling the Level A guidelines to begin with, but fully plan to cover 1.2.7 in the future. Hope you keep checking in!