Audio description is a narrated description of important visual details that are essential to understanding visual media. The narrated description is inserted into the original soundtrack’s natural pauses. Integrated Described Videos (IDV), which focus on using descriptive scripts, would be an alternative to audio description for self-authored videos (see Creating Accessible, Descriptive Scripts for more information).


Audio description is of great benefit to those who are blind or low vision because it gives them valuable information that can only be acquired visually. This allows them to connect further with the visual media, which results in a better understanding.

Audio description also provides benefits to individuals who:

3Play Media’s video provides further details on how audio description benefits these groups.


  1. This Frozen movie trailer is a great example of an appropriate use of audio description.
  2. This YouTube video has an audio description overlay. The original video is still available without audio description, but the overlay was added by 3Play Media for a student who needed it to access the video in a UNCG online course. The overlay doesn’t infringe on copyright laws and preserves the video creator’s original video.


Determining when audio description is needed can be subjective, but a good rule of thumb is to consider the description from the listener’s perspective. If you are only listening to the audio, would that be enough to adequately understand what’s going on, or would you need a description of the visual content to fully understand everything?

Below are a few questions to consider when trying to determine if your media needs audio description. If the answer is yes to any of the following questions, then it is likely that your media needs audio description:


The process to create and insert audio description accurately can be complex and costly. If it’s needed, it is best to outsource audio description to a vendor. However, when you are creating your own videos (lectures, demonstrations, presentations, etc.), using descriptive language in your video script will reduce the need for audio description. If you integrate descriptive language into your video, audio description services won’t be necessary. Creating Accessible, Descriptive Scripts covers techniques you can use to avoid audio description for the videos you create.


No costs will be incurred for audio descriptions that are approved through OARS as part of a student accommodation. Payment for all other audio description requests are the responsibility of the requesting party.

ITS: LT places audio description orders only for the ones that have been approved by OARS as part of a student accommodation. If your request is not connected to a student who has been approved for this accommodation by OARS, you can contact one of the university’s approved captioning vendors (3Play Media and Automated Caption Sync) directly to request services.

If the requestor has already submitted the media files/list of URLs to ITS: LT, a typical turnaround time would be approximately 5–7 business days. It is possible to submit a rush order, which could reduce the turnaround time to approximately 1–2 business days. (This is a more costly service.)

You (or your department) can request audio description directly from one of UNCG’s approved vendors. Please see the Request Audio Description Directly Through an Approved Vendor section.

Because audio descriptions can be very subjective and complex, if they are needed it’s best to use a vendor experienced in providing this service. There are ways to reduce the chance that you will need audio description for academic videos that you create. If used properly, incorporating descriptive language in your own videos can prevent you from needing audio description.

While WCAG 2.1 states that audio description is to be provided for all pre-recorded video, if it is not readily available for your visual media, at the very least you MUST have a plan to quickly provide an accessible alternative when a student has been approved by OARS for this service. The best way to address this is to be prepared through proactive planning. The upcoming question, “What can I do to prepare for students who need audio descriptions?” has more details about proactive planning.

Proactive planning BEFORE your course begins is the best way to prepare for a student who will need audio description. Students who need audio description will also need many other accommodations that often require more time and adjustments from the instructor.

Accommodations for visual disabilities can take a lot of time to incorporate into a course that was not designed with accessibility in mind. Proactively addressing how to handle audio description with your visual media will reduce the amount of remediation your course needs when a student with a visual disability actually enrolls. Remediating a course after the student with accommodations enrolls can be very time consuming and stressful; save yourself time and stress by focusing on your course’s accessibility ahead of time.

Use these proactive planning tips to prepare for students who will need audio description:

  • Prior to teaching the course, review all visual media (videos, movies, animations) required for the course to see if audio description is available.
  • If the visual media does not include audio description, either:
    • Attempt to locate an accessible version of the media. OR
    • Choose an alternate, accessible visual media.
  • Create a list of all visual media for the course. Indicate which ones will need audio description (because an accessible version or an accessible alternate was not available).
  • Be prepared to present this list to OARS when you are notified that a student with a visual impairment has enrolled in your course.

Contact Web Accessibility Coordinator Melanie Eley ([email protected]) for assistance with developing an alternate accessibility plan, to address any visual media that may require audio description.