Audio Description As An Aesthetic Innovation


Presented at 4:00pm in Virtual A on Thursday, November 12, 2020.



  • Joel Snyder, Dr., Audio Description Associates, LLC-Audio Description Project of the American Council of the Blind

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 45 minutes
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: Pre-conference


What happens when the exchange between performer and audience is interrupted or incomplete, not by lack of clarity on stage or screen, but rather by an audience member’s lack of access to full perception. How can a blind person “see” a film? How can access also be an aesthetic innovation?


Audio Description (AD) is a translation of images to words — the visual is made verbal and aural and oral. Using words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative, media describers convey the visual image from television and film content that is not fully accessible to a significant segment of the population. The theory of inclusive design describes one common approach to accessibility. The main tenets are: 1) the designers consider as many different human abilities, limitations and needs as possible; and 2) these factors should be included from the beginning of the design process. Innovative practice suggests how access techniques can be incorporated within the development of a film. It is then not an “add-on” but an aesthetic innovation and an organic part of the work that can benefit all people. I will share several examples of video incorporating alternative audio description from the perspective of inclusive design as well as its use as a novel media production technique.


  1. Audio description provides access to media for people who are blind.
  2. Audio description is traditionally a post-production activity, an "add-on."
  3. Inclusive/universal design principles can be applied to audio description and result in aesthetic innovation.

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Alternate Format, Assistive Technology, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Joel Snyder

Dr. Joel Snyder is known internationally as one of the world’s first “audio describers,” a pioneer in the field of Audio Description, a translation of visual images to vivid language for the benefit, primarily, of people who are blind or ahve a vision impairment. The visual is made verbal—and aural, and oral. Since 1981, he has introduced audio description techniques in over 40 states and 63 countries and has made hundreds of live events accesible. In 2014, the American Council of the Blind published Dr. Snyder’s book, The Visual Made Verbal – A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description, now available from the Library of Congress as an audio book voiced by Dr. Snyder and in Braille, in screen reader accessible formats, and in English, Polish, Russian and Portuguese (Spanish, Greek and Chinese are in development). Dr. Snyder is the President of Audio Description Associates, LLC and he serves as the Director of the Audio Description Project of the American Council of the Blind (