Don’t feel embarrassed to ask this question. Unless you are in the broadcast industry, the answer may not be all that obvious.

They are two completely different services, but both are essential to making media completely accessible to everyone, despite of impairments.

Described Video (aka Descriptive video and Audio description in the U.S.) services the blind or people with low vision by providing a narrative description of visual elements that may be essential to understanding the plot. During pauses in dialogue, a narrator will describe facial expressions, settings, actions, costumes, etc. Check out some of our recent work if you would like an example.

Closed captioning provides a word for word text of the dialogue and lyrical content of a program. Noises and sound effects are also described with written words. This provides accessibility to viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing.

How can you access these services?

Again, the answer may not be so simple, depending on your level of technical knowledge.

Without being too technical (I am doing my best to not be too geeky), the DV is carried on a secondary audio track, so it will need to be enabled in order to hear it. Your TV’s remote may have a button titled SAP (secondary audio program). If so, simply hit that button. Otherwise, you will have to navigate within your cable box settings. Generally under ‘audio setting’ you’ll find a ‘described video’ on/off option. The same may be true for your TV settings.

Displaying captions is enabled using the CC button on your TV’s remote or by accessing the video settings in your TV’s menu. Simply look for the closed caption on/off feature. Keep in mind, it may be referred to as ‘subtitles’.

Finding a show with captions is fairly easy, since broadcasters are required to provide closed captioning on all programs which air during the broadcast day. Programs with described video can be a little more difficult to locate. Currently, the broadcast minimum is 4 hours per week (but growing).

To find your favourite show with described video, visit AMI’s DV Listings.