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Spring 2009 Table of Contents
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Abstract: This article provides information on video description and described programs that are now available.

Keywords: blind, visually impaired, DVI, audio description

Do you realize that there are lots of audio described programs available on television? Most PBS programs are described, including children's programs, documentaries, and other series. Activating audio description (AD) will make those programs easier for blind students to follow and enjoy.

CaptionMax is one of just a few companies that provide audio description (sometimes called video description) services for the blind. AD allows blind and visually impaired people to access a program's visual content. Our professional CaptionMax writers and describers bring to life the key visual images, body language and visual expressions needed to understand a program's content.

Skilled writers watch the program and produce a rough script describing the program's action, settings, on-screen titles, and characters' body language. The writers determine which visual elements are essential to the program and produce a script that can be easily read without interfering with existing audio. Once the script is fine-tuned for style, clarity, and continuity, the writers, who are also professionally trained by voice coaches, record the narrative. These newly recorded descriptions are mixed with the original program audio and laid back to the master, which is placed in the Second Audio Program (SAP) channel of a program. A viewer at home won't hear the description unless the SAP channel is turned on.

Once the SAP is activated, you will hear the alternate audio if a particular television program includes this information and the station sends it to your TV. If a program includes a second language rather than audio description, you will need to turn off the SAP to hear the original audio.

There is no current FCC requirement to describe television shows; most of the shows currently described are educational programs that receive federal funding for the costs of creating audio description.

Turning on audio description can be a little trickier than turning on closed captions. The SAP channel is hidden in the audio of a described program, so you will need a tuner that can decode the SAP channel. This tuner can be part of your TV, VCR, or even your cable box. If your television set is not a stereo set, then your VCR or cable box must have a tuner with SAP decode capability, and the television feed must run through that box before going into the TV. Mono TVs will not be able to provide this feature on their own.

If you're not sure how to activate AD on your television, try our handy web guide: <>. Follow the menu links for additional hints on activating AD on cable, VCRs, and DVDs.

Check here for a list of television series that we describe: . In addition to series, we also do lots of documentaries and other programs.

CaptionMax is the largest producer of audio description services for non-broadcast educational media. Here's a list of the programs we've described so far, and we're adding to it every week: .

One of the coolest features of our educational DVDs is that the menus are auto-described. That means all you have to do is pop in the DVD, and you'll start hearing the menu options. You can control everything with the forward and enter buttons. Another of my favorite features is expanded description, in which the video freezes to allow more detailed description of an object or scene.

How do I get these programs? you may ask. If you're a parent or student, visit our page at the Described Captioned Media Program (DCMP) website: . Once you register on the DCMP site, you can obtain via download or DVD (including free shipping) any of our programs. There are just two requirements to be eligible for the service: 1.) You must be a parent of, teacher of, or student with a hearing or vision loss, and 2.) You must fill out a short evaluation form after use. To register visit DCMP's registration page: .

If you're a teacher or librarian, we encourage you to follow the links on our website to the program distributors, where you can buy and learn about our described programs and more.