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AST Launches “Open Audio Description” Offering

By: Aylin Dunham
Close-up image of a person typing on a computer.

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Audio description is being used and proliferated in video at a rate never seen before, most notably with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expansion of audio description requirements to 40 more TV markets in 2020.

For educational institutions, there has been an increased pressure from students, faculty and staff to provide multiple streams of access for people with vision loss. While many are excited about this new movement, others are still concerned about the lack of display options for extended audio description, the type of audio description most recommended for educational content, in both video platforms and players.

AST is therefore proud to launch its Open Audio Description offering to bridge current video accessibility workflow gaps, with open audio description serving as the next big step. This new solution will help organizations and institutions keep up with the increasing costs of captioning, transcription and audio description by allowing users to export extended audio description results to a final video file with an expanded timeline. After users receive their extended audio description results, they’ll be able to use the final file in nearly any video player of choice.

Here’s an example video showcasing open audio description in action:

How Open Audio Description Works

As evident in this article on the importance of video players, the availability of accessible video players with display capabilities for both captioning and audio description outputs is limited. AST’s CaptionSync Smart Player is one of the few that are available today.

However, organizations and departments are challenged in being required to use specific video players prescribed by their institutional policies. They may not always be able to move their content to different platforms. This reality is especially true if they have hundreds or thousands of hours of existing content, making the migration process extremely time consuming. Additionally, some institutions have privacy regulations related to the video platform used, especially if the video content includes private or confidential information.

AST’s Open Audio Description service offers a seamless solution to these problems. This service provides an alternate version of your original media file, creating a“freeze-frame” pause in your video when a description is being read. It then continues playing the video when the description is complete. This process extends the total duration of the media file, so that descriptions are not restricted to gaps in the original audio, as is the case with standard audio description. The request page for open audio description in the CaptionSync web portal is shown below:

Image of the CaptionSync web portal on the New Captioning Submission Page, with the Audio Description Step to add open audio description opened on screen..

With Open Audio Description, users simply take video results with the descriptions already embedded in the audio and they’re ready to upload to any desired video platform. A time-coded caption file is provided with the results, allowing users to ensure video accessibility for both captioning and audio description.

Close-up image of a person typing on a computer.

Open Audio Description for Academic Success

Making video accessible is not just a matter of providing captioning anymore; it’s about how to do so efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of those navigating vision loss. According to the CDC, vision disability is one of the top 10 disabilities among adults 18 and older. Open audio description can greatly help these individuals participate with equity.

Offering effective audio description can help to improve learning outcomes, increasing comprehension and ensuring retention of information, especially for those who are blind and have low vision.

AST is trusted by many universities, including George Brown College which serves a significant number of students with vision loss and hearing loss, offering them video accessibility services, including audio description, captioning, live captioning and more. To learn more about how AST’s new Open Audio Description solution works and can help, click here to set up a meeting.