Commentary: Enjoying The Olympics With Audio Description

Many Americans with vision loss were able to fully enjoy the moment when Michael Phelps won his 19th gold medal, and when Katie Ledecky broke her own world record in the Rio Olympics. That is because for the first time ever, NBC and Comcast are providing live audio description of the 2016 Summer Olympics for people who are blind or visually impaired. Audio description of NBC’s Primetime show began last Saturday, and will be available all 16 days of the Olympics. Users can access the live audio description through the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) audio feed.

Simply put, audio description is an ongoing commentary about what is going on in a movie or show. The narrator describes things like the setting, what each person or character is wearing or doing, facial expressions, etc. In other words, they describe details we would otherwise not be able to grasp by listening to the dialogue. This helps people with vision loss better understand and enjoy movies, plays and – for the first time in U.S. history – the Olympics.

Without a doubt, the Olympics are a highly anticipated event by millions of people throughout the world, myself included. I am always in awe when I learn about the incredible accomplishments and stories of these athletes. Being able to enjoy the Olympics with audio description has enhanced my enthusiasm for the games even more. Swimming and gymnastics are two of the sports that fascinate me the most, and thanks to audio description, I have been able to enjoy them even more during the last couple of days. I can better appreciate the tremendous amount of training and discipline athletes have to endure to reach their dreams of Olympic glory!

This is not the first time Comcast and NBC have been at the forefront of providing accessibility to viewers who are blind or visually impaired. Last year, they provided audio description during the performance of The Wiz Live! show. The accessibility features in Comcast’s X1 platform allow people who are blind or visually impaired to navigate the TV guide and other features independently. In other words, Comcast and NBC have set the example of providing full accessibility to viewers with vision loss.

As someone who is blind, I am thrilled to know that more television providers are striving to make their content accessible to people with visual impairments. Like anyone else, we also want and deserve to fully enjoy the latest TV shows, movies and plays. Audio description can significantly enhance the viewing experience for those who cannot see. I hope that more sports content becomes accessible through audio description. Better yet, I hope more TV networks take actions to include viewers who are blind or visually impaired by incorporating audio description and other accessibility features in their programs and services.

What other shows have you viewed with audio description? We’d love to hear from you!

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