The last two times I have visited Disney World and Disneyland, I have requested to use the official Disney World audio description devices while in the park. While the audio description devices have been around for a long time, not many people know about them- even park staff were surprised to see me walking around with the vibrant blue and yellow device in my hand. I found that having access to audio description helped to enrich my experience in the Disney parks, so today I will be sharing my tips for how to use audio description devices at the Disney World and Disneyland parks.
What is audio description?
Audio description is an additional audio track that provides visual information for people who otherwise would not see it. Audio description is most commonly used by people who have blindness or vision impairments, but it can also be used by people who have photosensitive conditions such as epilepsy. Audio description can be used to describe movies, TV shows, museums, music videos, plays, amusement park rides, and so much more.
- Fast Facts About Audio Description
- Watching “The Breakfast Club” With Audio Description
- Creating Audio Description for Music Videos With YouDescribe
- Using Audio Description at Dear Evan Hansen
- Visiting The Gateway Arch Museum With Vision Impairment
How to request an audio description device at Disney World (Or any Disney park)
Guests can request an audio description device at Guest Services, though the exact location of guest services varies by park. There are about eight devices available in each park, though at the time of writing I was told they have never run out of devices before.
You can ask for an audio description device by any of the following names, according to a Guest Services representative at Disneyland:
- Descriptive audio device
- Handheld accessibility device
- Device for the blind
- Blue and yellow accessibility device
- Audio description device
Two things you will need
When getting the audio description device, you will need to provide the following things:
- $25 as a deposit to ensure you return the device, which can be cash, card, etc. It will be refunded once you return the device at the end of the day
- An ID card that shows your name and address, which staff copies down on a form to protect against theft. I used my state-issued Virginia ID card
- Optional- your own headphones for listening to the description. I just used the ones that came with the headset.
Device hardware overview
The audio description device comes on a lanyard that a user can wear around their neck, and the device itself is larger than a cell phone. It is easy to use with large, high-contrast buttons on the right side of the device. The buttons are as follows, starting from the top:
- The two volume buttons are shaped like triangles and can be used to increase or decrease the volume. I had to do this often depending on where I was at the time
- Navigation buttons are segments of a circle, with a small circle in the center. This can be used to navigate the audio description menu, which will be mentioned in more detail later
- The square button will provide the location of where you are in the park and provide the audio description menu
- Lastly, the diamond button provides a device overview and tutorial on how to use the device
The audio description device has a large screen on the left side, but this doesn’t do anything for audio description users- the same device can be used for captioning for guests with hearing impairments.
Whenever you walk into a new area, there will be a bell tone followed by the name of the location or attraction you are standing near. For example, the device might announce you are in Tomorrowland and provide the audio description menu. This can also be manually activated by pressing the square button.
What’s on the audio description menu?
Area description/detailed description
The area description provides information about the layout of an area of the park as well as key visual elements. For example, when walking through Main Street USA, guests can hear about the buildings along the street and how they are spread out. The detailed description provides more information about their characteristics, with one fun example being the firehouse where a candle is lit in honor of Walt Disney.
The attractions menu shares what rides/shows are in the area and provides pre-descriptions that share ride information and safety considerations. Any attractions with audio description will have the description automatically play when you are on the ride or in the audience for the show.
Where’s the bathroom? The audio description menu provides locations for the bathroom, such as behind It’s A Small World or at the gift shop.
Food and beverage
The food and beverage option provides more information about restaurants, what they serve, and sometimes even have menus listed. I preferred to read the menus online, but found this feature helpful when I was trying to find a churro in Disneyland.
I didn’t go to the gift shops, but the merchandise menu provides information about nearby gift shops and descriptions of several of the products.
The entertainment menu provides information about character meetings and parade options. I used this to find Elsa in Disneyland, which was pretty cool!
Service animal relief areas
Self-explanatory- provides information about where service animals can find a bathroom.
I never needed to access this menu, but the supplemental information menu provides device regulatory information and other details.
Device battery life considerations
When I was in Disney World, the battery for my device ran out halfway through the Indiana Jones show, so we had to switch out devices in Guest Services. I had to do this in Disneyland as well, but I had planned for it so it wasn’t a problem.
Is it worth it?
I found that having access to the audio description device was extremely helpful for navigating through the park independently- I wasn’t constantly asking people where I was or what was going on. I highly recommend learning how to use audio description devices at the Disney World and Disneyland parks to help enrich your experience.