Blind Bargains

The Year In A.T. 2019: Audio Describe All The Things


The holiday season brings along gifts, good tidings and of course awards shows. Before we phase out the year that was, and observe the tradition of the MoonPie dropping over Mobile As we do every December, we collected the highlights of the year s Blindness and Low Vision Assistive Technology news and pressed it into a giant scrapbook. BBQ Crew members J.J., Joe, Shelly Brisbin, Scott Davert And Lisa Salinger have some thoughts about what transpired in 2019? And they were silly enough to make wild guesses about what 2020 may hold as well. Check out the show notes for BBQ 204 to read more about what news made our list of emerging trends and big stories.

The concept of Audio Description being commercially available in the United States isn t a new one. Several PBS stations have been using their secondary audio channels for distribution of the format for more than 25 years. And WGBH has offered VHS tapes with AD for purchase at major Blindness and Low Vision conventions in the past. Even some DVDs contained a description track, however, the ability to access it required a series of button presses or some other smoke and mirror method of memorization of menus to hear the correct audio.

The real growth in Audio Description of popular movies and television took place outside the US thanks to a greater understanding of equal access to media content. Unfortunately, as with non-described versions of the same content, some portions of the internet provided safe harbor for the pirating of titles from captured broadcasts in the UK and elsewhere. For some, even now, these pockets of illegal content are seen as the only avenue of obtaining a particular movie or TV show in a described manner even if the demand for piracy has diminished in the age of streaming services.

All of that began to change in 2015 when Netflix debuted its adaptation of Marvel s Daredevil as part of The Defenders series. The main character is Blind which in turn gave the company a fantastic showcase for explaining to the mainstream what Audio Description is and how it can be beneficial to others. However, as Netflix added to their described offerings, few of the competing streaming services joined in with AD tracks of their own exclusive or syndicated content.

Prior to 2019, if you were searching for AD titles, your quest began and ended with Netflix and Apple s iTunes. Then a cloudburst of activity happened with Hulu and Amazon adding a wealth of material to their services throughout 2019. Followed by AD being available for content on Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus on the launch day of their individual streaming options. Netflix, despite losing described tracks to their competitors who launched their own on demand service, continued to add AD titles to their catalog to a point where it only seems remarkable if a particular movie or show does not contain Audio Description. This is why our panel thought that this was a major story for A.T. this year.

These stories found themselves under the spotlight of Audio Description in 2019.

Happy 10th Birthday - Audio Description Project!
#ATIA19 Audio: There Is More Described And Captioned Media Out There Thanks To The DCMP
Hulu Gains Initial Audio Description Support For 1st Party Titles
CBS All Access offering some shows with audio description
Access World features articles on Amazon Audio Description, microwaves and more
Hulu app gains support for audio description tracks to help the visually impaired

Category: News

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Joe Steinkamp is no stranger to the world of technology, having been a user of video magnification and blindness related electronic devices since 1979. Joe has worked in radio, retail management and Vocational Rehabilitation for blind and low vision individuals in Texas. He has been writing about the A.T. Industry for 15 years and podcasting about it for almost a decade.


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