What is Audio Description?
Audio Description involves the accessibility of the visual images of theater, television, movies, and other art forms for people who are blind, have low vision, or otherwise have difficulty with vision. It is a narration (provided at no additional charge to the patron) that attempts to describe what sighted people take in through their eyes. This includes sets, costumes, facial expression and sight gags. The describer is not allowed to speak over the dialogue so the content of the production is not lost.
Formerly, people who could benefit from audio description could only experience this information through the whispered asides from a sighted companion.
In theaters, Audio Description is provided by a trained Audio Describer who transmits the descriptions from somewhere in the theater, often using a court stenographer’s mask. The patron hears the description via an earpiece or earphones connected to a tiny receiver.
Who Must Provide Audio Description?
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act includes an obligation for “effective communication” for individuals with sensory disabilities. Municipal programs and businesses are under federal requirement to ensure that their programs, services, and activities are communicated to individuals with sensory disabilities as effectively as they are to individuals without sensory disabilities. Audio Description is an accepted “auxiliary aid or service” under the definition. If an individual with a sensory disability requests Audio Description, the municipality or business would have to provide it unless they can prove to advocates, and possibly to the US Department of Justice, that doing so would be an undue financial or administrative burden or that it would fundamentally alter the nature of the event.
How to Find an Audio Describer
Today, many large cities have organizations with trained Audio Describers who offer their services to local theater groups and others.
Here is the current schedule of shows available:
The Color Purple
Belk Theater – July 15, 2018
With a soul-raising score of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues, THE COLOR PURPLE gives an exhilarating new spirit to this Pulitzer Prize-winning story. Don’t miss this stunning re-imagining of an epic story about a young woman’s journey to love and triumph in the American South. It’s the musical sensation that New York Magazine calls “one of the greatest revivals ever.”
The Book of Mormon
Belk Theater – July 29, 2018
This outrageous musical comedy follows the misadventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries, sent halfway across the world to spread the Good Word. Now with standing room only productions in London, on Broadway, and across North America, THE BOOK OF MORMON has truly become an international sensation. Contains explicit language.
The Lion King
Belk Theater – August 26, 2018
Giraffes strut. Birds swoop. Gazelles leap. The entire Serengeti comes to life as never before. And as the music soars, Pride Rock slowly emerges from the mist. This is Disney’s THE LION KING, making its triumphant return to the Belk Theater!
Love Never Dies
Belk Theater – September 16, 2018
This story of boundless love, full of passion and drama, the ultimate love story continues in LOVE NEVER DIES, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spellbinding sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera”. The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and the Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak shows of Coney Island. In this new, electrically charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar, but he has never stopped yearning for his one true love and musical protégée, Christine Daaé.
Belk Theater – October 14, 2018
HAMILTON is the story of America’s Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R & B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now.