Audio description example

Audio Description is the practice of conveying visual information in a purely verbal form. It is one of the best ways for blind and partially sighted visitors to access museums and heritage sites. This is especially true for exhibits that do not have a tactile element such as objects in display cases, paintings and archival material such as photographs and prints.

Architectural Audio Description can also provide a ‘way in’ to a historical site or an exhibition space – establishing a context within which the objects are displayed and giving visitors the confidence to explore. Audio Description can be delivered live by a trained guide or as pre-recorded information available online, as an iBeacon trail or on a handheld device at the venue.


Photograph of someone Writing as part of audio description training.

Writing as part of audio description training.

Top Tips

  • To deliver effective Audio Description carefully consider and edit the content to reflect the major themes or ‘story’ of the venue/exhibition in question; don’t try and describe everything.
  • For 3D objects, establish a point of view so that terms like ‘left and right’ or ‘front and back’ are meaningful. Be consistent with terminology, if you have referred to something as the ‘stand’ or ‘rule’ stick with those terms.
  • For 2D objects like paintings consider the way the image has been presented: landscape or portrait and the style: abstract or still life etc. Terms such as ‘foreground’ and ‘background’ can be utilised and the framing of the piece considered as part of the whole.
  • Describing a key object is a mixture of label information and a precise, evocative description, using vivid language, of what the object looks like: its size, shape, colour, how it was made.
  • Order your information coherently and edit descriptions concisely. A single description should be between 100 – 300 words long (depending on the complexity of what is being described). Always read the description aloud to check for length and comprehension as this is how the information will be delivered.
  • Use appropriate language, such as ‘this is the object we are going to explore’ or ‘this resembles’ or ‘what is most striking about this piece’ instead of ‘this looks like’ or ‘this is what draws the eye’. Include colour terms in a description as the concept of ‘red hot’ or ‘cool blue tones’ is still relevant and appreciated.



Oxford AD training, describing to a partner. Photograph of a man and a woman sitting back-to-back. The man is holding an object, while the woman listens to his description.]

Oxford AD training, describing to a partner.


All partners of the Sensing Culture project undertook audio description training, which has been used within the sites in different ways, from on the spot descriptions to technology like iBeacon applications.


‘[It was interesting] How conscious you have to be about the language used in describing objects and environment. Hearing a description brings life to objects for sighted as well’

Audio description feedback at the Beaney – CCCM


“A meticulous description of everything in the museum can be fantastic but without anything to handle or refer to doesn’t make sense. For some people descriptions hold very little relevance. If you are blind sometimes audio description can still be a passive experience, however if audio description is delivered in a quiet space and relates to 3-D objects it takes on a new life.” Mel Griffiths blind blogger for Sensing Culture


Your Turn

To a partner, describe a room you know well in your venue and an object in that room. Think about ordering your information to ‘set the scene’ for the description of the key object. Consider how best to convey the atmosphere of the room and what is striking about the object.


Credit: Lonny Evans

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