silhouette image of film strip and pencil representing editing the video.

How to create audio description for YouTube with YouDescribe

A unique volunteer opportunity to help people with vision loss: learn how to create audio descriptions for Youtube with the free YouDescribe tool.

YouTube accessibility has improved tremendously over the years, and one of my favorite tools for making YouTube accessible for viewers with vision loss is YouDescribe. YouDescribe gives volunteer users the ability to create audio description tracks for publicly listed videos on YouTube, recording an additional narration track that plays alongside the video without any other tools needed. I’ve been using YouDescribe for over five years and am a huge fan of the platform, and today’s post is all about how to create audio description for YouTube with YouDescribe.

How to set up YouDescribe

YouDescribe is a website and iOS app that gives blind and visually impaired users the ability to request audio description for videos, as well as search for videos that have been described and shared on the platform. Volunteers create audio description tracks using the YouDescribe web application, describing videos of their choice or videos that have been added to the wish list/request list.

Users do not need to have any specialty equipment or software to create descriptions on YouDescribe, though I strongly recommend using a pair of headphones and a microphone for best results. YouDescribe descriptions can only be recorded on the website and not in the mobile application.

Related links

Who should create audio description?

Anyone can register to describe videos for YouDescribe, and users can vote for their favorite descriptions, as well as have multiple people create audio tracks for the same video. There are a lot of people who make for awesome audio description writers and narrators, but some people who will have strong skills for creating audio description include:

Related links

Choosing a video to describe

As previously mentioned, I highly recommend checking the YouDescribe wish list when searching for a video to describe, as these videos were specifically requested by blind/low vision viewers. If the video is not on the wish list, run a search for the video title on the search bar and then select the “describe” button.

Related links

Watch the video and take notes as you go

After clicking the “describe” button, users are taken to the authoring screen for creating audio descriptions. From there, users can watch the video and pause it as needed.

I recommend writing notes in the notes box on the right side of the screen for easy reference, or in a separate notetaking application like Microsoft OneNote. When writing notes, pay attention to the following information:

Related links

Turn the notes into script for audio description

After writing notes, practice reading them while the video plays, and refine them as needed. Great audio descriptions have the following characteristics:

Related links

Record narration with the YouDescribe Website

Once you have created the script, it’s time to record! There are two types of descriptions:

The first type of description is inline description. These play concurrently with the video audio and do not require any pauses. Inline description can be used where dialogue or music is not important, during natural pauses in dialogue, or during transition scenes.

The second type of description is extended description. The video is paused while the audio description plays, and then continues when the description is finished. I recommend using extended description for videos where dialogue or music are important, or for longer descriptions. Both types of description can be used in a video.

To add a description:

  1. Go to the timestamp of the section that needs to be described
  2. Select your preferred description style- Inline or Extended
  3. Name the audio track or add a simple description
  4. Select record and speak, then select record again
  5. Listen to playback and reposition the audio track if needed
  6. Press the two arrow keys to switch from inline to extended, or vice versa
  7. To add more descriptions, click the play button on the video and pause at the next timestamp to add additional description
  8. Repeat

Related links

What your recording before you submit it

Before you submit your video, watch it with your eyes closed or with the screen pointed away and ask yourself the following questions:

Once all of those questions have been answered with a yes, go ahead and select publish. Viewers will watch the video and rate the quality of descriptions to provide feedback to describers.

Related links

More tips for how to create audio description for YouTube with YouDescribe

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Updated September 2023; original post published 

Back to Paths to Technology’s Home page

One-eyed monster wearing a white shirt and tie holding a computer.

Monster: Note taking skills

A space camp student standing inside a full space suit smiles at the camera.

Space Camp: Helping students with disabilities reach new heights

Speech Central logo

Speech Central update