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Best Possible Audio Description


From: Peter Shikli
Date: Jul 26, 2021 6:45PM

July 23rd's thread about creating accessible technical how-to video
content inspired some conversations in our shop about the best possible
audio descriptions, which I will present for community feedback below. 
More importantly, the best possible audio description seems to conflict
with WCAG's requirements, and that is where we would truly appreciate
some guidance.

Let's begin by recognizing that we are not referring to closed captions.
Those are for the deaf whereas audio description are mainly for the
blind, and their interests should remain our focus here.

Our disagreement with WCAG begins with the requirement that an audio
description be a feature of the video player as per their glossary's
definition of an audio description being "synchronized" to the video
(with that never mentioned in the numbered success criteria). For
obvious reasons, the blind use video players about as much as they use
mice. Audio in the form of a compact mp3 on their smartphones would
serve their needs better than forcing them to put the megafile of a
video somewhere just to listen to its audio description track.

The audio track of the video is all they need, plus the scene
descriptions between the dialog. That latter isn't a trivial requirement
in practice. Consider scripting the scene description of a how-to video,
which can be the key information of the video. If you thought an alt
description of an image was tough, how about a scene packed with
information, emotion, nuances, special effects, text images, and all the
creativity of a Spielberg.

Then comes the WCAG requirement causing us the most pain, the need to
pack all that into the time slot between dialog for level AA. Putting a
pause in the video while the audio description rolls complies at a AAA
level but builds needless resentment among the sighted unless we're back
to allowing a link to a version best for the disabled.

Following is how we propose to make accessible the how-to videos sitting
in my in-basket. First we extract the dialog plus music & sounds into a
separate mp3. We then carefully script the meaningful scene
descriptions. Then we have a trained voiceover artist read that scene
script into the space between dialog, but expanding that audio whenever

Such a best-possible audio description would retain the original dialog
for its artistic value. How much better than replacing Morgan Freeman's
voice with an NVDA robot! And no NVDA robot for the scene description
either. More of a Mark Twain story telling to keep the listener awake.
Much more satisfying and informative than a transcript for a screen reader.

The end result would be a link near the video to a separate mp3 audio
description that even busy sighted listeners may appreciate on their
commute to work as a more accurate rendition of the video. My question
is how to make this compliant to Title II and III of the ADA which
requires WCAG 2.1 level AA?

Peter Shikli
Access2online Inc.
29030 SW Town Center Loop East
Suite 202-187
Wilsonville, OR 97070
503-570-6831 - <EMAIL REMOVED>
Cell: 949-677-3705
FAX: 503-582-8337
Prison inmates helping the internet become accessible