Audio Description for YouTube

August 23, 2019 BY ELISA LEWIS
Updated: May 1, 2020

YouTube is one of the most popular video platforms in the world, boasting over 1.9 billion monthly active users. It’s the second largest search engine and second most visited website in the world, behind its parent company, Google.Hand holding smartphone with YouTube app open

There’s no denying our love for video. Each year, it seems like its popularity continues to rise. We watch an astounding 1 billion hours of YouTube videos everyday – which is more than we watch on Netflix and Facebook combined!

Although video is an amazing medium to share information with others, it’s not always inclusive. A video becomes inaccessible to viewers when it lacks closed captions, transcription, audio description, etc.

For blind and low vision viewers specifically, audio description is a beneficial accommodation because it assumes the viewer cannot see the on-screen content. It narrates important visual information, which is essential for understanding the program.

Few video platforms support audio description, including YouTube. If you want your content to reach the millions of people who make up the blind and low vision community, we’ll give you some pointers on how to add audio description to YouTube videos.

Creating Descriptions for YouTube

As much as Google and YouTube have made strides in accessibility by providing viewers the option to watch videos with captions and transcripts, YouTube still doesn’t support audio description.

Because of this, publishers will have to find another way to make their content accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The two most common ways to add audio description to videos are to create it manually or to go through an audio description vendor.

Since YouTube doesn’t support audio description, the latter option is more superior. Going the DIY way will be a far more labor- and time-intensive process, however, there are some workarounds for adding audio description to your YouTube videos.

On the flip side, when you go through a professional audio description vendor like 3Play, not only can you add descriptions to YouTube videos, but you’re guaranteed high-quality, accurate descriptions as well.

DIY Descriptions

Did you know? 3.5% of the world's population, or 253 million people, live with some form of vision impairment

As mentioned, choosing to create descriptions yourself will take ample time and effort. Depending on your workflow however, this may be a suitable option for your organization.

First, you’ll want to create an audio description transcript. This will be a text document that includes both the descriptions of the visual elements as well as the captions of the original audio.

The audio description transcript will allow blind and low vision viewers to use their screen readers. Not only will they understand the original spoken audio, but they’ll also be able to get a picture of what’s being visually depicted in the video.

Although this option is better than not having audio description at all, it’s best to have the descriptions in the actual video because it improves the viewer experience. Blindness isn’t all or nothing. In fact, many blind people still have some vision, even if it may be a small percentage. The transcript wouldn’t allow viewers to watch the video and read at the same time.

However, you could use the transcript to record the descriptions for your video! When you have the timecodes of the captions, you’ll know precisely where the natural pauses between the dialogue are located. This will definitely make recording the descriptions a breeze since you know exactly where they should go!

If you decide to go with just the transcript instead of recording the audio description, we recommend putting it in the description box below the video or link it to a separate URL.

Outsourcing to 3Play Media

At 3Play, our goal is to make video accessibility easy. That’s why we created the 3Play Plugin. It’s a free tool that allows publishers to create a fully interactive and accessible experience for their viewers – even for videos they don’t own.

With the 3Play Plugin, you’re able to uniquely customize your video. It’s compatible with a number of video players and publishing platforms, including YouTube. You can even add descriptions to your videos on platforms that don’t support audio description!

Ryan Seacreast from American Idol saying "game changer"
Our team of professional describers watch your video and utilize a mix of technology and human editing to create clear, accurate descriptions that follow the DCMP guidelines. The descriptions are placed using the existing timecodes from your caption file so that it doesn’t disrupt the viewer from the original audio track.

The final audio description output uses synthesized speech. This is especially useful when you want to make edits to the descriptions. Unlike traditional audio description, our method allows you to make quick changes without having to record again – saving you time and money.

Once your file is complete, you can download your audio description file in a number of output formats. However, since YouTube currently doesn’t support audio description, our plugin makes publishing your video on YouTube a piece of cake. The audio description plugin is a simple embed that references your video and plays the secondary description track along with your original audio



Another great aspect about the 3Play Plugin, is that it allows viewers to toggle the audio description on or off and adjust the volume without adjusting the original audio track. See for yourself!



Make your YouTube videos accessible!

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