Veronica With Four Eyes

YouDescribe Audio Described YouTube Videos Review

As someone with low vision and a strong sensitivity to flashing lights, I rely on very observant friends and audio description services to be able to watch YouTube videos. My favorite service that provides audio description for YouTube videos is YouDescribe, because the voices are real people and I can easily follow videos without being distracted by the additional description track. The best assistive technology is the type that is completely unobtrusive and allows the user to focus on the task at hand, after all.

Today, I will be sharing my review of YouDescribe audio described YouTube videos. I will not be reviewing any specific video, but I will be linking to some examples later in the post.

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. By doing this, 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.

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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 YouDescribe 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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How to access YouDescribe

YouDescribe can be accessed in two ways:

  1. Users can access the YouDescribe website through their computer web browser. YouDescribe does not work with mobile web browsers, including iOS Safari and Android web browsers.
  2. Users can access YouDescribe through the free iOS app and watch videos, as well as request videos to be described.

YouDescribe can be used with or without an account for viewing videos. A Google account is required for requesting videos and creating descriptions.

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YouDescribe interface

The YouDescribe interface is similar to the YouTube website, but much easier to access with a screen reader. Dynamic text is not available on the iOS app, so users with low vision may benefit from using the Zoom screen magnifier to read text.

YouDescribe website

On the YouDescribe website, videos are displayed in horizontal rows, with five videos on every row.

To watch a video, viewers can click on the video title or icon, and then click the play button on the video screen. Adjust volume by dragging a slider at the bottom of the video.

After watching the video, users can click the “rate description” button and rate it from 1 star (terrible) to 5 stars (awesome).

YouDescribe app

The YouDescribe app displays videos as a list, with one video per line.

To watch a video, viewers can click on the video title or icon, and then the video will auto-play. Adjust the volume of the video and descriptions by dragging the volume slider.

One of the interesting things about the mobile app is that users can see how many audio description tracks there are, as well as how long each description lasts.

After watching the video, users can click the “rate description” button and rate it from 1 star (terrible) to 5 stars (awesome).

Types of videos available

Any video on YouTube has the potential to be described using YouDescribe. However, YouDescribe does not have audio description for every single video on YouTube, though their collection is growing every day. Common video topics that receive audio description on YouDescribe include:

  • Social stories
  • Movie trailers
  • Recipes
  • Educational videos
  • Videos about disability
  • Instructional videos
  • Short clips from movies and TV shows
  • Blind YouTubers
  • Music videos
  • Cat videos

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Searching for videos

To search for a video on YouDescribe, type your query in the search bar. On the website, this is in the top left section. For the mobile app, the search button is on the fourth button on the bottom of the screen.

Search results are filtered to show described and non-described videos. In the mobile app, videos can also be filtered to show what is on the wish list.

Add a video to the wish list

The wish list is a section of the YouDescribe website that shows which videos have audio description requested. Volunteers can then go through the wish list and create descriptions for requested videos. There is no set timeline for how long it takes for a video to be described once it’s on the wish list, but educational videos seem to take higher priority.

Describing videos for YouDescribe

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Potential uses for YouDescribe

Here are some ways I have used YouDescribe, as well as potential uses for the service:

  • Watching movie trailers with my friends
  • Viewing an educational video in class
  • Making a recipe for my family
  • Watching a popular advertisement
  • Watching cat videos- why not?

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YouDescribe is an amazingly helpful service for people with blindness and vision impairment. It allows for viewers to be able to access the same videos as their sighted peers in a format that makes sense to them. This also helps with increasing independence, since I don’t have to keep asking my friends what’s going on in a video or missing out on important visual information. I highly recommend checking out YouDescribe for watching YouTube videos with audio description.


My review of the YouDescribe app and website. Watch YouTube videos with volunteer created audio descriptions