Audio Description on YouTube #AudioDescribeYT

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Today I wanted to do a blog on a topic which has recently hugely sparked my interest and that is audio description on YouTube. Now, a few weeks ago I discovered a video made by filmmaker and YouTuber James Rath (who, like me, is a content creator with a visual impairment.) In the video James Rath was talking about audio description, what it is, what it does and a campaign that he had started to lobby YouTube to incorporate a feature onto their platform to allow content creators to add audio description to their views in the same way we can with closed captions.

The campaign, namely the #AudioDescribeYT, campaign was started by James Rath to get people talking about audio description and to encourage them to lobby YouTube to look at adding this feature. Its 2016 and currently YouTube does not have a feature that allows people with sight loss or other disabilities which make it difficult to watch a screen or pick out detail to access audio description. As a content creator and a viewer who is registered severely sight impaired, this is something that I seriously believe needs to change. After all, I make videos for people with sight loss and other disabilities, I have started to add closed captions to my videos for the hearing loss community and I would also like the option to add audio description to my videos when necessary.

So, the other week I sat down and filmed a video talking about audio description, what it is, what its used for, who uses it and why YouTube should add it to their platform.

Audio description itself is a narration track which can be added to a film, TV show, theatre production and other visual formats to describe whats visually going on to someone with sight loss or to whoever needs to use it. To date, its an accessability feature used by companies like iTunes and Netflix, cinemas  and Theatres have audio described showings, its used in art galleries and museums and its a feature that is vital to many people living with sight loss across the world.

Audio description can be used as much or as little as it needs to be, its sued to describe things like setting, colour, objects, facial expressions, actions and so on. Its something that allows a person with sight loss to gain an understanding of whats visually occurring on screen when there isn’t any audio indication.

YouTube itself is a huge and expansive melting pot of videos, people and ideas. There are videos that probably wouldn’t need a lot of audio description, especially if they are already narrating whats going on like in the examples of DIY videos or tutorials. However, there are certainly a lot of videos that would really benefit from the use of audio description. For instance, ‘lookbooks’ and ‘get ready with me’ videos. Now, I have made these type of videos before and what I noticed when I produced them was that they can be very unaccessible and certainly when I’ve watched other YouTuber’s lookbooks and get ready with me videos, I have noticed this likewise. Because, usually you have a person wearing outfits to a piece of soundtrack or sometime applying makeup to some atmospheric music. Usually if I want to make these videos as a content creator who has sight loss and makes videos to a large demographic of visually impaired people, I am faced with two option.s The first is that I create a blog post on the lookbook or video, something I do anyway and am happy to do, naturally. However, this prevents my sight loss following from enjoying the video like a sighted viewers would. The other option is to simply not make the video or make it in a style where I add narration into the video. So, if there was a feature whereby I could upload an audio description track or someone could contribute it for me like with closed captions, I could potentially make more mainstream videos which everyone could potentially watch and enjoy.

Of course, thats only one example, from my perspective as a fashion and beauty YouTuber. There are plenty of other examples of YouTube videos that could benefit from audio description vlogs, routines, comedy sketches, animal and pet videos and so on. They could all in turn benefit in some way from the side of such a feature.

After all, there are 2 million people in the UK alone (according to a study conducted by the RNIB) living with sight loss. This does not include the million of people across the world living with sight loss and the many others with other disabilities who use audio description. People who have epilepsy and can’t watch videos for photosensitivity, people with disabilities which affect their concentration, people with disabilities which make it difficult for them to physically sit up and watch the screen. Audio description is a vital source for allowing people to access and fully enjoy a video and get the full experience of it.

If YouTube were to add this feature it would in turn encourage more content creators with visual impairments to upload content in the knowledge that it can be made accessible. But, it would also encourage more people from the sight loss and disability community to log onto YouTube and explore different areas of YouTube that they hadn’t before explored because of the feature. I think it would be a fantastic way of helping people from the sigh loss community further engage wth one of the biggest social media platforms. But, it would also be a positive step for YouTube generally, as audio description could be used my many people as a generic feature, regardless of accessibility.

I think its a win-win situation, what about you YouTube?

So, those are my thoughts on audio description on YouTube. I would love to see some of my followers, whether you are viewers or content creators yourselves, to make blogs, videos or social media posts on the campaign. Get the conversation started, talk about what audio description is, talk about how audio description on YouTube would benefit you and lets see what YouTube have to say. Just be sure to share whatever you post under #AudioDescribeYT

Kudos to James Rath for coming up with the idea to start this campaign, I think its a fabulous idea!

Thank you all so much for reading and watching and I’ll see you all in my next one.



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Emily is a Masters Degree Student, Writer, Journalist, YouTuber and blogger who runs the blog and YouTube channel

3 thoughts on “Audio Description on YouTube #AudioDescribeYT

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