Described audio refers to audio content that is inserted into a video and provides descriptions of important visual content. This important accessibility feature allows persons with visual impairments to understand what is happening while engaging with video content. For example, described audio can indicate non-verbal actions, important characteristics of visual elements, or background visuals. 

What is Described Audio?

Described audio refers to the addition of audio content that describe a video’s visual details. These audio descriptions provide accessibility to viewers who are visually impaired or when important visual details cannot be understood from the main soundtrack alone. Described audio should always accompany video-only content such as animations or webcams. 

A wide audience can also benefit from explicit audio explanations while watching video-only content. Described audio is ideal in circumstances where viewers are likely to engage with your video in an audio only context, for example on their morning commute or as a podcast-style experience.  

Adding Described Audio to Video Materials

Described audio can be added to video in different ways. Below you will find some of the most common methods.  

  • Embedded Audio Description

    In this method, audio descriptions are recorded once the video is completed and included within the original video. These descriptions can be voiced during pauses in the video’s normal audio or included as a separate audio track that can be toggled on or off.

  • Live Descriptions

    This method refers to descriptive audio that is spoken during the recording process. These descriptions are voiced live as the video is being recorded or aired and have a more natural feel to the audio context. Live Descriptions often benefit from a well thought out script or talented speakers who can provide adequate context live, for example news coverage of live events.

  • Separate Video

    Should a video not have adequate breaks for embedded audio, or if a media-player cannot hold multiple audio tracks, a separate video that includes audio descriptions can suffice. This duplicated video contains only one soundtrack, where the described audio is “burned in” and cannot be toggled on or off.

Summary/Key Takeaways

There are a few different ways to offer described audio for your video content. Choosing the appropriate method will be based on viewer needs, a video’s content, and available resources.  

Additional Resources

SNOW Inclusive Learning & Education is a great resource that offers detailed descriptions of various described audio implementations and a list of audio description providers in Canada.

Visit SNOW Described Audio Resource


  • Photo by Ika84 via Getty Images. Used with permission.


(WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0., (2022, February 21). Media Players. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Retrieved March 4, 2022, from

(WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0., (2022, February 21). Description of Visual Information. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Retrieved March 4, 2022, from

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