Tools for Adding Audio Descriptions

Published September 13, 2023

Video has become a primary means to access digital content between social media platforms and streaming services. Seeing how people can access entertaining, social, and even educational content has been remarkable. 

Even more remarkable is that users with visual impairments also have a means in consuming video-heavy content. This is thanks to the development of audio descriptions. Audio descriptions are a type of narration that describes the visual elements of a video. This makes the video accessible regardless of the user’s visual abilities. 

Digital product developers should know how to implement this essential accessibility tool properly. And so in this piece, we will explore the best methods for adding audio descriptions to your video content.

Understanding the Need for Audio Descriptions

Before we dive into how to implement audio descriptions, let’s review why you should.

For people with visual impairments, the prevalence of video content can be daunting and isolating. The recent boom of video-based content may seem like a party everyone else was invited to. The current popular show on Netflix or HBO may be reduced to music or sound effects, lacking visuals that provide context and meaning to the content.

Thankfully, with audio descriptions, this type of content can be enjoyed across the ability spectrum. In audio descriptions, the visual elements of the video are described in a way that makes it possible for those with visual impairments to follow the storyline and understand the content. This includes describing a scene's location, the passage of time in a video, and the nuanced body language of characters.

Now that we’ve covered the why let’s dive into the how.

Adding Audio Descriptions Manually

One way to add audio descriptions to your video content is to do it manually. To do this, create a separate audio track that describes the visual elements of the video. For quality descriptions, you will need to understand the visual elements of your video and be able to describe them in an engaging and informative way. You will also need recording software (such as Garageband or Ableton) and good equipment to ensure the narration is intelligible and well-produced. 

While this approach can be time-consuming, you can create custom audio descriptions tailored to your content.

If you’re going down this route, it's important to be descriptive and engaging in your audio descriptions. Try to provide as much detail as possible about your video's visual elements while keeping the audio description concise and easy to follow.

It's also important to time your audio descriptions correctly. Try to time your audio descriptions so they don't interfere with the video's audio. This can be a delicate balance, but with practice, you'll be able to find the right timing for your audio descriptions.

Using third-party services

If it’s within budget, content creators could also add audio descriptions using one of several third-party services. These allow creators to upload content and receive a custom audio description tailored to the video. 

Some popular tools include Voquent, CaptioningStar, and 3Play Media. While these tools can be more expensive than manual solutions, they can be a great option for those who want a professional-grade audio description.

AI technology

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has recently seeped into most digital technologies. This includes audio descriptions. AI tools use machine learning algorithms to help ease creating and editing audio descriptions.

One example of this technology is Apple’s Rescribe app. After an audio description author has created a script draft, Rescribe’s programming can “optimize between the length of the audio description, available automatic shortening approaches, and source track lengthening approaches.”

In other words, Rescribe’s technology can transcribe an audio description script and read it in a manner that is best conducive to a viewer’s understanding and enjoyment of the content. 

Factors to Consider 

When choosing an audio description tool, consider the best budget option. As we’ve mentioned, some options are more costly than others. Not just in terms of money but time as well. It is important to consider whether you can spend the finances outsourcing your audio description or doing it yourself. 

You should also consider the accuracy of the audio description, as well as the quality of the audio. You must be confident in delivering understandable and accurate descriptions if you do it yourself. 

By that same token, should you opt for a third-party service or software, you should also be confident of their abilities. Check for reviews of the service you are thinking about using. Try to watch videos that they have provided descriptions for.


Audio description is one of the best ways to ensure video content is accessible across the ability spectrum. Whether added manually, through a third party, or through AI-driven tools, many options are available to help you create engaging, informative, and accessible audio descriptions.


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