Home Events Audio Description as an Aesthetic Innovation (Session 12A)

Audio Description as an Aesthetic Innovation (Session 12A)

Zoom: https://hawaii.zoom.us/j/8089682208
Main Topic
: Creativity and the Arts
Session Type: Skill Share


In his introduction to the second edition of The Mastery of Movement, Rudolph Laban wrote: “What really happens in a theatre does not occur only on the stage or in the audience, but within the magnetic current between both these poles.” (Laban, 1950.) He suggests that the performers on stage form the “active pole of this magnetic circuit [and] are responsible for the integrity of purpose” (p. 6) in the performance that determines the quality of the “exciting current between stage and audience.” (p. 6) But what happens when the exchange between performer and audience is interrupted or incomplete, not by lack of clarity on stage or screen, but rather by an audience member’s lack of access to full perception. How can a blind person “see” a film? Audio Description (AD) is a translation of images to words — the visual is made verbal and aural and oral. Using words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative, media describers convey the visual image from television and film content that is not fully accessible to a significant segment of the population (more than 26 million Americans experience significant vision loss – American Foundation for the Blind, 2019). AD also provides benefits for the sighted audience who may never fully realize all that can be perceived with the eyes—who see but who may not observe. On television, it is for people who are blind or have limited vision and sighted people who want to be in the kitchen washing dishes while the show is on. The theory of inclusive design describes one common approach to accessibility. The main tenets are: 1) the designers consider as many different human abilities, limitations and needs as possible; and 2) these factors should be included from the beginning of the design process (Cremers et al., 2013). Innovative practice suggests how access techniques can be incorporated within the development of a film. It is then not an “add-on” but an aesthetic innovation and an organic part of the work that can benefit all people. This session will explore how recent video projects have created access as a part of the whole following the tenets of inclusive design; members of the creative team took responsibility for accessibility as part of the production process eliminating the need to add a separate layer after the fact. The production then become accessible to a wider audience. This notion allowed filmmakers to meet an obligation for inclusion while incorporating innovative techniques thus increasing the production’s aesthetic viability. I will share several examples of video incorporating alternative audio description from the perspective of inclusive design as well as its use as a novel media production technique, including: – Stevie Wonder’s “So What The Fuss” – Odd Job Jack “Donut Jack” – Hamlet “Ballroom”

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the dimensions of the audience for audio description
  • Be exposed to an outline of the history of audio description
  • Know the four fundamentals of audio description:  Active Seeing / Visual Literacy-concentration and observation; the art of “editing” what you see/identifying key visual elements; vivid, succinct and objective language; using the spoken word to make meaning
  • Experience an example of “traditional” audio description developed for a commercial feature film
  • Understand how an assistive technology–audio description–can function as an aesthetic and “built-in” element of media

Keywords: blindness, audio description

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Mar 02 2021


5:00 pm - 5:45 pm

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Mar 02 2021
  • Time: 10:00 pm - 10:45 pm

Zoom Meeting


  • Dr. Joel Snyder
    Dr. Joel Snyder
    Audio Description Associates, LLC-Audio Description Project of the American Council of the Blind - President, Director

    Audio Description Associates, LLC-Audio Description Project of the American Council of the Blind

    Dr. Joel Snyder is known internationally as one of the world’s first “audio describers,” a pioneer in the field of Audio Description, a translation of visual images to vivid language for the benefit, primarily, of people who are blind or have a vision impairment: the visual is made verbal—and aural, and oral. Since 1981, he has introduced audio description techniques in over 40 states and 63 countries and has made hundreds of live events, media projects and museums accessible. In 2014, the American Council of the Blind published Dr. Snyder’s book, The Visual Made Verbal – A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description, now available as an audio book voiced by Dr. Snyder, in screen reader accessible formats, in Braille, and in English, Polish, Russian and Portuguese—a Spanish edition will be released in 2021; versions in Greek and Chinese are planned for 2022. He serves on the Disability Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission and the Audio Description Subject Matter Expert Committee of the ACVREP—the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals. His PhD is from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona with a focus on audiovisual translation/audio description. Dr. Snyder is the President of Audio Description Associates, LLC (www.audiodescribe.com) and he serves as the Director of the Audio Description Project of the American Council of the Blind (www.acb.org/adp).