One of my all-time favorite accessibility tools for low vision and photosensitivity is audio description, which I first discovered when going to a movie with friends at the end of my freshman year in college. I immediately started wondering where this amazing technology had been all of my life, as audio description provides an additional narrative track that describes visual information and also can provide warnings about flashing lights.
Fast forward several years, and I’m now using audio description for almost everything – movies, TV shows, museums, and even YouTube. The YouDescribe service has been a major game changer for finding audio described content on YouTube, as well as giving me a platform to request audio description for videos I am interested in. Today I will be sharing an overview of YouDescribe and their audio description for YouTube.
YouDescribe is available as an iOS app and on the YouDescribe website, which can be accessed through the web browser. I prefer to use the web browser, as I can more easily cast videos to my Google Chromecast or play them in full screen. YouDescribe does not work in mobile browsers, such as those on iOS or Android.
YouDescribe videos can be watched without an account, but users will need to log in with a Google account to request or record audio description for videos.
YouDescribe can be accessed with assistive technology such as screen readers, screen magnification, and large print/browser zoom and has several features for watching and browsing videos, including:
The YouDescribe homepage features the most recently described videos, which cover a wide variety of topics and languages.
Search for videos by title or topic, with options to filter described videos and non-described videos. Non-described videos can be added to the wish list.
Blind and low vision users can request YouTube videos for description and vote on videos they would like to have described. There is no set timeline on how long it takes for a video to be described once it is added to the wishlist, but in my experience the videos are usually described within a week. Requests are in order from oldest to newest.
When a video is open, users can adjust the volume of the audio description tracks with the Description Volume slider underneath the video. There are also options to turn off description tracks entirely under Description Options.
Selected description shows the display name for the narrator/author of the audio description track, with an option to rate the description between 1 and 5 stars.
Any video that is publicly listed on YouTube can be described on YouDescribe! Some of my favorite types of content include:
Want to learn more about how to describe videos for YouDescribe? YouDescribe has a built-in software for creating audio description tracks for free, which is fantastic for teachers, students, and volunteers who are looking for a unique way to help people who are blind or visually impaired. I have an entire post about how to create descriptions for YouTube with YouDescribe linked below.
Admittedly, I have never been a huge YouTube person, and I don’t watch YouTube every day or follow very many YouTubers. That said, here are some of the ways that I use YouDescribe as a viewer with low vision and photosensitivity:
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated September 2023; original post published February 2019
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