“Audio Description is, to a great extent, a kind of literary art form in itself. It’s a type of poetry—a haiku. It provides a verbal version of the visual—the visual is made verbal, and aural [Snyder points to his ear], and oral [Snyder points to his mouth]. Using words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative to convey the visual image that is not fully accessible to a segment of the population and not fully realized by the rest of us. The rest of us: meaning sighted folks who see but who may not observe.”
—from Joel Snyder’s “Audio Description — The Visual Made Verbal”

Joel Snyder is one of the pioneers in Audio Description, a field that provides theatre, movies, TV shows, and other arts to people who are vision-impaired. As I thought of being an audio describer myself, I realized how true it was that one has to become someone who not only sees, but also observes.

This transcription of a Joel Snyder presentation goes into some detail about how audio description works, including annotated examples of descriptions. I pulled out this example from The Shining. Can you picture it?

Now, a woman in her thirties with long blond hair. She stands in a white-tiled bathroom and wears a white towel. Leaning on the black sink, she gazes at her reflection in the steamed-up vanity mirror.

(:05) Pause

Her eyes drift down to a gold key resting on the sink. Engraved on the key are the numbers 217. Beside the key is a packet of razor blades.

She picks up the razor blades and slides one of them out. Shown from her bare legs down, she drops her towel on the floor. [DROP] She steps to a black bathmat in front of a footed bathtub. [CURTAINS] Sunlight shines on her bare toes. She steps into the tub.

Now in the basement, Torrance.


Blood drips from the blond woman’s hand as her arm rests on the side of the bathtub.


In the basement, the older man blows his nose on a red handkerchief.

(video: Audio Descriptions of Video by Valerie Hunter)

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