Audio description is a live, scripted commentary on a show which is delivered by a trained individual via dedicated headsets. The commentary provides information which is otherwise only available visually; so it may include, for example, actions happening on stage, details of significant non-verbal communication or a character’s entrance. The audio describer writes their script so as not to interfere with the dialogue and other audible aspects of the show so that a good audio description enhances, rather than competes with, the ‘soundtrack’ of the show.
Audio description has been described as:
“an additional commentary describing body language, expressions and movements. AD gives you information about things you might not be able to see, meaning that you can keep up with the action.” (RNIB)
Audio description is delivered in a large number of theatres in Britain and is often accompanied by touch tours of the set, opportunities to meet performers and handle props. In addition, programme notes, plot synopses and other information may be provided in appropriate formats prior to the show.
Audience members who are using the audio description may need to be seated in specific seats in order to receive the commentary, depending on the transmission system being used. Some may also want to be seated near the front since that may enable them to gain some appreciation of what’s going on onstage as well as listening to the description.