Veronica With Four Eyes

Creating Audio Description For Crafting Tutorials With YouDescribe

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed that many of my friends and people around me have started creating different beautiful art and craft projects, ranging from paintings of their pets to knitting and crocheting blankets. Many of them follow along with videos that they find on social media, and today one of my friends asked me how someone who was blind or that had low vision would be able to access different craft tutorials online. While there are tutorials specifically designed with accessibility in mind, my friend was interested in modifying existing tutorials so I sent them a list of ideas. That conversation is now turning into a post, and today I will be sharing my tips for creating audio description for craft tutorials with the free YouDescribe tool. These tips are also great for creating alt text/text descriptions of image-based crafts projects.

WHAT IS AUDIO DESCRIPTION?

Audio description, sometimes referred to as descriptive audio or described video, is an additional narrator track that provides visual information for people who otherwise would not be able to see it. Audio description is provided during natural pauses in dialogue so it does not distract from the video. Occasionally, describers may pause the video themselves and add description if there are no natural pauses available.

For most online videos, open audio description is used, meaning that the audio description automatically plays and does not require a special device to be used.

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WHAT IS YOUDESCRIBE?

YouDescribe is a free website and iOS app that allows viewers to watch YouTube videos with audio description. The audio description tracks are written and recorded by sighted volunteers so that people with blindness and low vision can watch YouTube videos and receive visual information. YouDescribe is a project of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, California.

YouDescribe is available online and as a free iOS app. At this time, audio description tracks can only be created through web browsers. YouDescribe can be used with or without an account for viewing videos, but connecting to a Google account is required for requesting videos and creating descriptions.

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WHY ADD AUDIO DESCRIPTION FOR CRAFT TUTORIALS?

Some of the many reasons to create audio description for craft tutorials include:

  • There are lots of different adaptations that can be made when creating different art or craft projects, and people can use videos as inspiration to create their own projects
  • It can be difficult to focus on a video and a project at the same time, and it’s often easier to listen instead of watch
  • Artwork can be used to help people with low vision navigate a specific space such as their home, and can help serve as a visual landmark
  • Many people who lose their vision later in life, especially older people, enjoy being able to continue their hobbies involving arts and crafts, and rely on accessible content to be able to do so
  • Crafting is a fun social experience and something unique to do with friends when hanging out in person or online

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INLINE VS EXTENDED AUDIO DESCRIPTION

One of the most common questions new describers have is when to use inline description (which involves reading audio description over the video audio) or extended description (which involves pausing the video to read audio description), and what to consider choosing one type over the other. While there are some people who prefer one style over the other, here is what I prefer as someone who relies on audio description for understanding content.

When to use inline:

  • When there is limited voiceover/speaking or lots of music
  • If the necessary descriptions are short and can be quickly read in natural pauses
  • Whenever the narrator is describing movement, i.e cutting or using a specific technique

When to use extended:

  • If there is lots of description needed at the beginning for the layout of the scene
  • When a scene changes very quickly and additional description is needed, such as color changes, cutting into different shapes, or using stop-motion/sped up video
  • If there is lots of talking or voiceover content

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WHAT TO INCLUDE IN AUDIO DESCRIPTION FOR CRAFT TUTORIALS

Here are my recommendations for what to include in audio description for craft tutorials:

  • Descriptions of steps for each project, such as drawing a specific shape, casting on stitches, or folding paper
  • Materials and tools that are being used for the project- I recommend watching the video through and taking notes about what materials/tools are used, and using extended description at the beginning of the video to say what materials will be needed
  • Measurements or quantities for materials- it’s helpful to know at the start of a project how big of a canvas will be needed so that users can make adjustments
  • Any onscreen text should be read verbatim
  • Specific color information if relevant to the project, i.e if neon pink and navy blue paints are needed for the project
  • Technical names for terms when available, like a purl stitch for knitting
  • Any transitions such as a person pointing a hairdryer at their art or a sped-up image of someone cutting- this helps with users who are pausing the video in between steps
  • A description of what the finished product looks like, such as its colors, shape, size, etc

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WHAT NOT TO INCLUDE IN AUDIO DESCRIPTION FOR CRAFT TUTORIALS

Here are my recommendations for what not to include in audio description for craft tutorials:

  • Generic names for specialty materials- if someone is using scissors specifically for sewing, mention that they are sewing scissors when they are first shown on screen, then refer to them as scissors from that point on
  • Whether a task should be performed by a sighted person or not- just describe the task and allow the viewer to make the judgment as to whether they will need sighted assistance
  • Describing what colors look like- I know what blue looks like, but I’m interested to know what shade of blue is being used such as turquoise, cobalt, sky blue, etc
  • Dead air after creating extended audio descriptions, as users can always pause the video if they need more time between audio descriptions
  • Any redundant information that is covered by voiceover narration
  • Descriptions of the background for the video or other irrelevant information- I don’t care that this painting was created in a room with purple walls or that a pair of scissors is orange
  • Random commentary about a project, such as how difficult it looks

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Final thoughts

While some art or craft projects can take hours or days to complete, many audio descriptions for craft tutorials take less than an hour from start to finish, and shorter tutorials like the ones shared on social media take even less time. I am grateful for all of the YouDescribe volunteers that create awesome content for blind and visually impaired audiences, and I hope that this post on audio description for craft tutorials helps other like-minded people create audio description for others in their community!

Creating Audio Description For Crafting Tutorials With YouDescribe. My tips for creating audio description for arts and crafts tutorials with the free YouDescribe platform- also great for writing alt text!



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