Audio description is a means of making the arts accessible through words to blind and partially sighted people, who use a lightweight headset to listen to the description during a performance.
In live performing arts, audio description consists of three essential elements.
The first is a description of the set, characters and costumes, giving the blind and partially sighted audience information about the visual style and design of the production. This may be recorded and sent out to those who have booked, and also delivered live just prior to the performance.
The second part of the audio description process is the touch tour, during which the blind and partially sighted audience explore the set, perhaps meet the cast and also handle some crucial props or costumes, completing their understanding of the style of the production.
The third part is a description of the visual elements of the performance. This will include characters’ actions and reactions, shifts in location and lighting effects.
The description is delivered live, accommodating the changes in pace that are typical in live performance. It is timed so that it doesn’t overlap dialogue or lyrics, taking care to describe only essential elements, and allowing the piece to ‘breathe’.