by Tabitha Kenlon
Audio Description Project Coordinator
If there’s one thing lovers of audio description (AD) want the world to know, it’s this: there is not enough audio description.
What Is Audio Description?
Audio description brings to vivid life filmed content, theatre, art, sports, and nature. Just a few words, well-chosen and beautifully spoken, can transform confusion into comprehension, and comprehension into community. The social inclusion provided by the ability to participate in a broad range of activities is key to advancing disability rights.
In 2010, the Audio Description Project began tracking the number of film and television titles available with audio description. At the time, there were 101 DVDs with audio description. Today, there are more than 10,000 titles with AD, thanks in large part to online streaming services like iTunes, Netflix, and Prime. While an increase from 101 to 10,000+ is laudable, there remain additional thousands of hours of filmed content that are inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision. The Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA) could help add a second 10,000 to our catalog faster than we accumulated the first.
If the thought of bills (yawn) and politicians (cringe) puts you to sleep, do a little dance to wake up and keep reading, because it’s legislation like this that can affect your daily life in tangible ways. First, we’ll tell you three things you should know about the CVTA, and then we’ll tell you how to contact your representatives so you can advocate for accessibility. We’ll also provide some additional resources in case you’d like to know even more!
Three Reasons to Love the CVTA
The CVTA would strengthen the availability and reliability of audio description in multiple ways, but here’s a sample.
- Expand the pass-through of audio description: If you live in Laredo, Texas, and your friend lives in Dallas, Texas, chances are your friend receives AD on broadcast channels and you don’t, and under the current rules, you won’t for another few years. Or maybe you do get AD, but because broadcast channels are only required to provide 87.5 hours of AD every quarter, your favorite shows have been neglected. The CVTA would require audio description for all broadcast, cable, and satellite channels, throughout the country. Basically, all shows would have AD, all the time, everywhere.
- Requires AD and AD tools for online content: While streaming services have led the way in providing audio description, significant gaps remain. The CVTA would require all video content delivered via the Internet to include audio description. Exemptions are possible for some carriers of user-generated content, but platforms would be required to make AD creation tools available to help users produce accessible videos.
- Makes audio-described content easier to find: Having it is great, but what if you can’t find it? The CVTA covers that too, requiring that audio-described content be identified by an audible tone and easily discovered on a variety of devices, from set-top boxes to tablets. Additionally, and you’ll love this, audio description tracks would travel with content as it moves from one channel or streaming platform to another, so that if a film or show was available with AD once, it always will be.
Now It’s Time to Advocate for AD
The CVTA is not law – yet. Make your voice heard and help get the CVTA passed! Contact your senators and Congressional representatives and tell them how important it is for you to be included in every aspect of life, from education to information to entertainment. Ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor and do everything they can to improve accessibility for their constituents.
Find your representatives online or by phone:
- Search by state to contact your senators: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm
- Search by zip code to contact your representatives: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
- Or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
If you do contact Congress, please share your outreach experience with the ACB National Office by emailing [email protected].
The Audio Description Project: https://adp.acb.org/
The CVTA, an ACB Legislative Imperative: https://acb.org/CVTA-imperative
Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology: https://www.cvtaaccess.org/