Options Skyrocket with Audio Description Growth

by Timothy Hornik and Terry Kebbel
BVA Technology Association for Veterans with Visual Impairment

Over the last several years, AFB, ACB, and NFB tirelessly advocated for audio description in movie theaters, network television shows, and streaming services. The ACB Audio Description Project’s website is the foremost authority on the current state of descriptive content, reviewing and summarizing our options for this type of service. Thanks to these efforts, immersion into movies now requires knowing only where and how to access this Secondary Audio Programming (SAP) for the narrative track.

Movie Theaters’ Audio Description Headsets

The larger cinema chains around the country offer headsets for patrons with visual or hearing impairments. We may obtain a set by asking the staff at the ticket counter for a pair, but we must specify which one.

For the blind, there is a device that plays a narrative track synced to the movie. For hearing impairments, the device amplifies various parts of the movie and may offer a neck loop to directly insert into a hearing aid box. It is possible to use both devices together.

Audio Description Headsets In America’s Movie Theaters

Did you know that your local movie theater possesses headsets to listen to descriptive audio for the summer’s latest blockbusters? The larger cinema chains offer headsets for individuals with visual or hearing impairments. You may request one of these devices from the ticket counter or manager’s booth at no additional cost. However, you must specify which one. For the blind, there is a device that plays a narrative tracked synced to the movie. For hearing impairments, the device amplifies various parts of the movie and may offer a neck loop to directly insert into a hearing aid box. It is possible to use both devices together, increasing your ability to enjoy the flick.

Audio Description On Network TV

Accessing SAP with the audio description feature on network TV often requires sighted assistance. This stems from the various methods we may use, ranging from over-the-air to cable/satellite providers.

The simplest solution is to ask for sighted assistance to locate and enable the SAP, Descriptive Audio, or Audio Description setting within a television, cable/satellite box, or TIVO. Some remote controllers possess a SAP button to easily access the option. For a listing of what shows include Audio Description tracks, visit the ACB Audio Description Project page for some listings.

Audio Description In Online Streaming

My favorite method to enjoy Audio Description involves streaming services. In particular, Serotek’s System Access Mobile Network (SAMNet) Veterans Program, Netflix Audio Description, and iTunes Movies all provide a cross-platform method to experience Audio Description. Serotek’s SAMNet Veterans Program contains thousands of television shows and movies as part of the SamNet and iBlink Radio services and apps, which are accessible through Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OS, and AppleTV fourth generation devices. In order to sign up for the SAMNet Vets program, your VIST Coordinator or your Blind Rehabilitation Center’s Computer Access Training specialist must complete the application form found on the Serotek website.

Netflix, the most popular streaming media provider, became the first mainstream media company to incorporate ACB’s Descriptive Audio challenge in streaming media. Spearheading the initial release, Netflix’s partnership with Marvel Universe brought the first season of “Dare Devil,” alongside a handful of other titles with descriptive audio. Since then, the collection of descriptive audio increases each month with new titles available for our viewing pleasure. Visit the ACB Audio Description Project’s Netflix page for the most updated selections. You may enable this feature on your iPhone, iPad, Apple, TV, computer, or supported Android device by playing a movie, navigating to the audio and subtitles menu, and locating the audio output stating English with Descriptive Audio.

iTunes only recently started to add Audio Description to its movies and television shows. At Bulletin press time, there is no quick method to view a complete list of titles. Recently, an Audio Description button appeared on the Apple TV under the movie’s app featured selection, but not all titles with SAP appeared. The best solution is to search for Audio Description in the summary of an individual movie or show after the CC, or Closed Captioning, labels. I have found this primarily on newer releases, with the bulk from Disney-related studios and other family programs.

Additionally, Blindy.TV is an Internet streaming radio station. You can tune into five channels that constantly play descriptive audio content. This service requires no registration or fees and is supported by most web browsers. Both the Victor Reader Stream and HIMS Blaze ET allow us to select Blindy.TV from the list of Internet radio stations when connected to Wi-Fi.

DVD and Blue Ray

Why venture out of our homes or worry about subscription fees for Netflix when many of the DVDs and Blue Ray in our private collections or public libraries possess these features?

On the backside of these media, we may find SAP, DVC, DVS, or AD to indicate the existence of the narrative track. All we then need to do is enable SAP or Describe Video in the menu settings of our DVD or Blue Ray player and enjoy! Accomplishing this task may require sighted assistance to navigate the settings of our selected player.


The Audio Description feature allows blinded veterans to enjoy their favorite movies and TV shows through a narrative track. No longer must we rely on family and friends to inform us of what just transpired as the professional narrators accurately describe anything from action sequences to emotional depictions.

The ACB Audio Description Project leads advocacy efforts to improve access within broadcast media and movie theaters. The project continues to push streaming media providers to join the movement. These efforts present us with a choice to consume a new blockbuster at a movie theater, or sit back with our families for a movie night, or stream a show while on the go. To get involved personally in improving Audio Description efforts, go to the ACB webpage that calls for further support for described television and web accessibility.