For the special One World: Together At Home broadcast, Be My Eyes teamed up with several corporate partners and volunteers to create audio description for audiences with low vision and blindness so that they would be able to follow along with the program. While the broadcast spends a lot of time talking about current events, there are also several beautiful musical numbers from artists all over the world that feature positive messages and interviews with different people from all around the world. Today, I will be sharing my thoughts on watching One World: Together At Home with audio description and Be My Eyes. This isn’t a review of the actual event, rather a review of the audio description itself.
What is audio description?
Audio description, sometimes referred to as descriptive audio, is an additional narration track that describes visual information for people who otherwise might not be able to see it. It is typically read by humans, though some audio description uses synthesized voices, and can be played openly where everyone can hear it or on an assisted listening device (ALD) where only the person wearing headphones can hear it. Most online media utilizes open description that plays alongside the original audio content.
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What is Be My Eyes?
Be My Eyes is a free smartphone app for iOS and Android that connects blind and low vision users with sighted volunteers or company representatives for visual assistance through a live video connection. In more basic terms, it allows users to have a sighted person on demand through video chat. There is no limit on how often a user can access Be My Eyes, and the service is free to use. The app also can be used from anywhere in the world, with no language restrictions.
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How I watched One World: Together At Home with audio description
For the One World: Together At Home event, Be My Eyes partnered with a team of volunteers to create live amateur audio description that could be accessed through the “Specialized Help” section of the app. After the event concluded, the Media Access Group at WGBH (a PBS affiliate) created a professional audio description track recorded by a female narrator that was posted on YouTube for users to listen to at any time. Like all other services through the Be My Eyes app, the audio description for One World: Together At Home event is free to access.
Examples of audio description
Information that was audio described included any on-screen text, celebrity names, scene transitions, and other valuable information that audiences would otherwise miss out on. Some examples of audio description in One World: Together At Home include:
- Kasey blows a kiss and Usher sits in his home
- Images show downtown Los Angeles
- Elton John wears a flashy suit and plays a grand piano
- Spongebob washes his hands
- Sam Smith sings at home
- A second Keith plays the guitar
Pairing audio description with visuals
The One World: Together At Home audio description posted on the Be My Eyes channel does not have any visuals, which is helpful for users who don’t need them. However, some people may prefer to pair audio description with the visual performance. I recommend pulling up the video on a large screen and having the audio description on a separate device and starting them both at the same time. In order to prevent duplicate audio, users should mute the main video and play the audio description track.
Did having audio description make a difference?
I have a lot of trouble recognizing celebrities, and it’s not just because I have low vision- I tend to not recognize their voices very well either. For this alone, audio description made a tremendous difference when it came to figuring out who was talking or singing, since some segments started without someone introducing who was next. Even though the audio description was fairly minimal, it was extremely helpful when listening to the event with the audio-only broadcast as I was able to not miss out on any of the interesting visuals.
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I had a lot of fun getting to listen to the different performances during One World: Together At Home, and the audio description helped me with the different scene transitions and other valuable visual information. I hope that more musicians and concerts will incorporate audio description into their future performances, and I’m very grateful that Be My Eyes was able to make audio description available for those who need it!