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Digital Communications

Image of headphones with sound waves traveling between the earpieces. In the center of the headphones is the symbol for Audio Descriptions, “AD” with three curves off the right of the headphones.Audio description (AD) is narration that has been added to a video to make visual content accessible to individuals who are blind or have other visual disabilities. In general, AD captures significant actions and text-based information provided onscreen. AD is required by law (1194.22 b and 1194.24 c of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act). HHS does have supplemental documentation supporting the use of AD; however, there has not yet been guidance published by HHS about when AD must be implemented, nor is there guidance governing the content of those descriptions. Because of the context-based nature of the descriptions and the technical challenges in providing AD, full implementation of AD has lagged relative to other similar alternative formats (e.g., alt-text or captioning).

The World Health Organization estimates that there are over 285 million individuals with visual disabilities. And, out of that group, 39 million are estimated to be blind. Given the mission of HHS, which is “to help provide the building blocks that Americans need to live healthy, successful lives,” it is vitally important that all content be accessible to all individuals—not just individuals without disabilities.  Learn more about creating well-written audio descriptions visiting this link.

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Content last reviewed on September 16, 2014