Audio description

And now, our feature presentation (or blog post)

Everyone loves watching a good movie, broadway show, or has a favorite television series. With the holiday season approaching, many movies are scheduled for release in theaters, and the Omaha Community Playhouse will be playing “A Christmas Carol.” People with a vision impairment can easily enjoy all of them, and much more year-round with audio description.

What is audio description?

Trained audio describers provide the visually impaired with verbal descriptions of the stage production during the live performance through FM transmitters and personal headsets. Outlook Nebraska collaborates with local theater organizations to offer this free service to theater goers with vision impairment. Through the headset, the listener learns about character actions and facial expressions, stage layout, and scene changes.

Radio Talking Book began audio description in the late 60s and early 70s by using secondary audio channels with local programming specifically for the blind. The service debuted in Minnesota in 1969 and came to a Nebraska station in 1974. The Metropolitan Washington Ear, founded by Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl in 1974, became the first service to describe live theater, a showing of “Major Barbara” at the Arena Stage in 1981. This organization trained describers for a local test of audio description in 1986 by WGBH in Boston before expanding nationally. Word choice and quick thinking is required, resulting in a rigorous audition process. Narrator Roy Samuelson told Backstage that it’s nuanced – a very fine line of emotional balance.

What shows are described?

Any show can be described. Outlook partners include the Omaha Community Playhouse, the Rose Theater and the Orpheum Theater. Along with “A Christmas Carol,” enjoy “A Raisin in the Sun” and other audio described performances this season at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Buy your Orpheum Theater tickets to see “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Le Miserables.” Finally, the Rose Theater offers “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed” and “Corduroy.” Click here to view the full list of upcoming audio described performances.

Remember to request audio description services through the venue after your ticket purchase. Patrons are encouraged to give two-weeks-notice to ensure availability.

Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime also provide pre-recorded audio description tracks. On iTunes, if purchasing or renting a movie or TV series, audio description begins automatically when this setting is enabled.

Audio description had a humble beginning on the East coast, but it now provides people with a vision impairment around the world the same entertainment value. In Omaha, Outlook Nebraska can connect you to resources to enjoy a night of theater, or a movie night at home on the couch. Learn how audio description can enhance your streaming experiences through our adaptive technology training program. Contact us to learn more about audio described shows and events offered by Outlook Enrichment.

Your gifts made it possible for 62 live performances to be described in 2018 providing over 200 visually impaired participants an accessible cultural experience. Help us continue to offer this free service with a donation today.

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