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Each year, the Vision Australia audio description team brings a huge range of plays, musicals, operas and other live performances to life for people who are blind or have low vision across Australia.

Why not make 2024 the year you make the most of what Vision Australia’s expert audio describers have to offer and catch a show? From Alice in Wonderland, to Rent, to Midsummers Night Dream, there’s an audio described offering for everybody thanks to Vision Australia.

What is audio description?

Audio description offers people who are blind or have low vision an understanding of what is happening visually with in a production, whether it’s live or pre-recorded.

Audio description is an additional narration that succinctly paints an image of what’s happening on stage or screen, beyond dialogue and other audio cues.

“When you’re watching a production, there’s a whole range on information that’s conveyed visually beyond the dialogue. Audio description paints that picture for people who are blind or have low vision,” Michael Ward, Vision Australia manager audio description services.

“It includes things like transitions, movements, gestures, props, settings, costumes and scenery and means people who are blind or have low vision have a full understanding of a production, just like anyone else in the audience,” Michael said.

How does an audio described production work?

Audience members who are blind or have low vision simply purchase a ticket to an audio described performances, with an up to date list of those performances available via the Vision Australia website.

“We work with the production companies and ticketing agencies to make sure there’s sufficient audio described tickets available for each show,” Michael said.

Each live production requires an audio describer to be on-site to provide the description, which is delivered by a small earpiece worn by the audience member.

“Given the nature of a live performance, where it lives and breathes in real time, the audio description is delivered live to ensure the timing of the description fits the dialogue.

“A lot of preparation is undertaken by Vision Australia describers. They’re highly trained and will also take in a production a number of times and really study it before they audio describe it to make sure they’re really bringing the show to life.”

Audio description is also available at many major movie cinemas across Australia.

Other features

Along with the audio description itself, attending Vision Australia audio described show comes with some other features.

“Prior to each audio described show, we send out of pre-show notes which contain many of the visual aspects of the production which include, set designs, costumes and props, which may not be able to be described when the curtain comes up.

“Tactile tours are often available for people with an audio described ticket. The tour lets these audience members get hands on with a selection of costumes, props and similar and really helps build the picture of what’s happening on stage.”

Audio description at home

You don’t always have to leave home to enjoy the benefits of audio description.

ABC (14 hours) and SBS (28 hours) both have a selection of audio described programming on-air each week, while a number of streaming platforms also provide the service for viewers.

“Audio description on TV has definitely come a long way in recent years, both free to air and on-demand. We do find that some people still don’t know just how available it is, so we definitely encourage people to check out what’s available on their streaming services and enable it.

“The 14 hours a week of audio described content on ABC and SBS is a great start and we want people to make the most of it too, which is why we provide a weekly regular guide to let people know what’s being described each week.”

To subscribe to the audio description live theatre and TV guide, email [email protected].