Janet Ingber

The title of this new book by AccessWorld author Judy Dixon says it all. Dixon's new book provides not only a guide to using audio description, she also discusses history, legal issues, providers, device set-up, and much more.

Dixon starts with a forward by AccessWorld author Deborah Kendrick, who talks about her experiences with audio description. Dixon gives acknowledgements and presents a personalized introduction to the world of AD. In the "About This Book" section and seven chapters she gives a detailed overview plus very specific "how to" directions. To conclude the work, an extensive list of resources is provided.

About this Book

This section starts with a brief description of each chapter. She mentions which types of devices will be discussed, including her reasons for not writing about audio description for web browsers and computers: there are a number of web browsers, screen readers, and operating systems that put them beyond the scope of the book.

Chapter 1: Some Background on Audio Description

Use of audio description did not happen overnight because of resistance from broadcast, cable, and streaming services. Legislation was eventually enacted but not without a fight. Dixon gives an excellent timeline of what happened.

This chapter starts with a history of audio description. Early work was done by WGBH, the Boston PBS affiliate. They used the Secondary Audio Program channel to play the description track. Studies were done by the American Foundation for the Blind and by Comcast. Dixon also discusses the settlement between the American Council of the Blind and Netflix, where Netflix agreed to provide audio description for all of their original programs.

The important requirements of section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act are explained in relation to adoption of audio description. The next section of this chapter covers current legal requirements for AD. Dixon discusses the FCC (Federal Communication Commission's) original legislation in 2000 and gives the reasons this legislation was never enacted. Dixon writes about the FCC regulations that were passed in 2010, called the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). It mandates the number of hours of described programming that must be available and what the providers need to do to make this happen.

Lastly, she discusses the Justice Department's mandates regarding first run movies in theaters.

Chapter 2: Audio Description on Broadcast and Non-Broadcast Television

This chapter begins with a discussion of the different ways to get audio description on your television. Next is an explanation of how audio description is sent to your specific type of device. FCC requirements for accessible documentation and set-top boxes are also discussed.

Dixon provides very specific information on how to access audio description for many companies such as Comcast Xfinity Service, Verizon FiOS, and Charter Communications Spectrum TV. She discusses the Channels app. Her instructions and descriptions are very clear.

Chapter 3: Accessing Audio Description when Using Streaming Services

This chapter begins with a discussion of the seven major streaming services: Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, and Prime Video. There is a description of each service and its cost.

In the second part of this chapter, Dixon clearly describes how to access audio description on the above streaming services. She describes the screen layout and how to enable the device's screen reader. She provides instructions on using these services on a wide variety of devices including iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast with Google TV, and Roku Express.

Chapter 4: Finding Audio-Described Content

Dixon discusses the American Council of the Blind's Audio Description Project. This website has an easily searchable master database of described content.

The National Federation of the Blind NFB-NEWSLINE is another source for described content. You will need to set up an account with Newsline. Dixon explains the process for getting information about audio described content using this source.

Another source is Fandango. Dixon explains how to find out if a movie is described.

Chapter 5: Audio Description at Movies, Plays, Museums, National Parks, and Live Events

The first part of this chapter has information regarding AD at movie theaters. Specific legislation is discussed regarding what theater owners are required to provide. She adds that movie trailers are not usually described.

In the next section, Dixon discusses audio description at live theater events. She provides information on methods and challenges of live description.

The remainder of this chapter is about audio description at museums, National Parks, and live events. Examples of live events include the Olympics and the inauguration of President Biden.

Chapter 6: Other Venues for Audio Description

Dixon discusses other places where audio description may be available. For example, the Department of Education DCMP (Described and Captioned Media Program) provides audio descriptions and captions for K-12 students. She writes about how to get YouTube videos described. Other topics include in-flight airline entertainment availability. There are podcasts where a sighted person describes things that are visual, specifically for the blind. Check the resources section for these podcasts.

Chapter 7: The Future of Audio Description

In this final chapter, Dixon explains how some companies are working to improve the sound quality of audio described content. She also describes how some streaming services are using text-to-speech rather than having a human read the descriptions. She writes about her own experience with this type of description.


Dixon provides an excellent and extensive resources section, organized by category: Articles, Books and Research Reports, Podcasts, and Websites. Websites are organized by type: General, Legal Issues, Broadcast and Non-Broadcast Television, Streaming Services, and Streaming Devices.


This book is very well written. Whether you are an old pro at audio description or just at the beginning stage of setting it up, you will find helpful information. Dixon's descriptions and instructions are very clear and useful.

Book information

Audio Description: What It Is, Where to Find It, and How to Use It, by Judy Dixon

Price: $12.00

National Braille Press

Formats: braille, BRF, DAISY text, and Word

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Janet Ingber
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Book Review