Live Performance Audio Description

What is Audio Description?

Audio description is a service that makes performances accessible for audience members who are blind or who have low vision. It is a real-time account of all the visual elements of a show, delivered live. (To deliver the script, the describers usually sit in a sound-proof booth at the back of the theatre and speak into a microphone. Description users hear the describer through headphones attached to portable audio receivers.)
Audio description is written to fit into spaces in the dialog or music, so it does not interrupt the natural flow of the piece, but rather, enhances it, and allows users to follow the physical, visual elements of the show, as they happen. The idea is to give description users as close to the same experience as the rest of the audience gets as possible.

Audio description usually involves two, carefully crafted scripts.

The pre-show… (or secondary) description is delivered live for 15-25 minutes before curtain, and offers detail about sets, costumes, props, which character(s) each actor is playing, and what those actors/characters look like.

The in-show… (or primary) description is a real-time account of the action, delivered live during the performance itself.

In addition to folks who are blind or visually impaired, audio description can help:

• ...people on the autism spectrum, to understand interpersonal/emotional cues

• ...people with ADHD and other attention challenges, to figure out where to direct their focus at any given moment

• ...children and others acquiring language for the first time

• ...English-language learners

• ...auditory learners

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