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Descriptive Video Service

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Title: Descriptive Video Service  
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Subject: Audio description, WGBH-TV, 2012 Summer Paralympics, DVS, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Collection: 1985 Introductions, Assistive Technology, Television Technology
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Descriptive Video Service

The Descriptive Video Service (DVS) is a major United States producer of video description, which makes visual media, such as television programs, feature films and home videos, more accessible to people who are blind or otherwise visually impaired. DVS often is used to describe the product itself.


  • History 1
  • Technique 2
  • FCC involvement 3
  • Regular U.S. series with DVS available 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes and references 6
  • External links 7


In 1985, PBS member television station WGBH-TV in Boston, Massachusetts began investigating uses for the new technology of stereophonic television broadcasting, particularly multichannel television sound (MTS), which allowed for a third audio channel, called the Secondary Audio Program (SAP). With a history of developing closed captioning of programs for hearing-impaired viewers, WGBH considered the viability of using the new audio channel for narrated descriptions of key visual elements, much like those being done for live theatre in Washington, D.C., by Margaret Pfanstiehl, who had been experimenting with television description as part of her Washington Ear radio reading service.

After reviewing and conducting various studies, which found that blind and visually impaired people were consuming more television than ever but finding the activity problematic (often relying on sighted family and friends to describe for them), WGBH consulted more closely with Pfanstiehl and her husband, Cody, and then conducted its first tests of DVS in Boston in 1986. These tests (broadcasting to local groups of people of various ages and visual impairments) and further study were successful enough to merit a grant from the

  • WGBH - Media Access Group - DVS Services
  • The Audio Description Project
  • Schedule of USA Audio Described TV Programs, Produced by the American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project
  • Metropolitan Washington Ear
  • Audio tracks of DVS version of Masterpiece Theatre's "Wind In the Willows" (regional restrictions may apply)
  • Poems written from a transcribed DVS version of Basic Instinct via Triple Canopy (online magazine)

External links

  1. Cronin, Barry J. Ph.D. and Robertson King, Sharon, MA. "The Development of the Descriptive Video Service", Report for the National Center to Improve Practice. Retrieved on July 30, 2007.
  2. "The ABC's of DVS", WGBH - Media Access Group. Retrieved on July 30, 2007.
  3. "Our Inclusive Approach", AudioVision. Retrieved on July 30, 2007.
  4. DVS FAQ, WGBH - Media Access Group. Retrieved on July 30, 2007.
  5. "Media Access Guide Volume 3", WGBH - Media Access Group. Retrieved on July 30, 2007.
  6. "ACB Statement on Video Description" American Council for the Blind Legislative Seminar 2006, February 1, 2006. Retrieved from Audio Description International on July 30, 2007.
  7. List of PBS series with DVS, August 2007, WGBH - Media Access Group. Retrieved on July 30, 2007.
  8. Homepage, MoPix. Retrieved on July 30, 2007.
  9. "DVS Home Video" WGBH - Media Access Group. Retrieved on July 30, 2007.
  1. ^ The Development of the Descriptive Video Service
  2. ^ WGBH - Media Access Group - ABCs of DVS
  3. ^ About AudioVision
  4. ^ WGBH - Media Access Group - DVS FAQ
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ MoPix – Motion Picture Access
  7. ^ WGBH - Media Access Group - DVS Home Video
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Networks Set to Launch Video Descriptions". Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Netflix Begins Audio Description for Visually Impaired" (Press release). Netflix corporate blog. 14 April 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Audio Description (Video Description) on TV". The Audio Description Project. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Audio Description Schedule". Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Closed Captioning Practices".  
  13. ^ "July Video Descriptive Episodes".  
  14. ^ "Fox Broadcasting Company Audio Description Schedule". Retrieved June 10, 2013. 
  15. ^ "HISTORY Video Descriptive Show Schedule".  
  16. ^ "Schedule". Retrieved July 3, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Nickelodeon Audio Described TV Schedule". Retrieved July 3, 2012. 
  18. ^ "TV Schedule". Retrieved July 1, 2015. 
  19. ^ "TNT DVS Schedule". Retrieved July 1, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Accessibility at USA Network". Retrieved July 3, 2012. 

Notes and references

See also

USA Network:[8][10][20]

  • Various films, listed on WGBH's DVS page on TCM (may not be up to date)

Turner Classic Movies:[10]



  • Some movies




  • Netflix maintains a list of programming and films available with audio description tracks (or view here)





  • Airs described programming on a specific schedule

Disney Channel:[8][10][13]

The CW:[10]


Cartoon Network:[10]


Regular U.S. series with DVS available

ABC, along with sister network Walt Disney Pictures. NBC and their associated cable networks, along with outside productions by Universal Television such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mindy Project, solely use CaptionMax for description services; Netflix also utilizes CaptionMax for their original series, while going per studio for acquired programming. Most scripted programming on Fox, except for the shows of Gordon Ramsay (Hell's Kitchen, Hotel Hell and Kitchen Nightmares) is described by the Media Access Group; Ramsay's programs are contracted by his producing studio to have audio description done by Scottish-born voiceover artist Mhairi Morrison with Descriptive Video Works. American Dad!, which previously featured DVS, no longer carries it for new episodes premiering after its move to TBS in late 2014. CBS's described shows all use the Media Access Group.

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 reinstates the FCC's involvement in providing rules for video description. Under the rules, affiliates in the top 25 markets and the top five-rated cable networks will have to provide at least 50 hours of video described programming per quarter; the rules took effect on July 1, 2012.[8] However, this provision currently does not apply to syndicated programming; notably, many programs which have audio description in their network runs, such as those produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television, remove the DVS track for syndication, substituting in the Spanish dubbing track on SAP to reach more viewers, though as many stations affiliated with "netlets" like The CW and MyNetworkTV are not under the video description provision (likewise, outside of a Spanish dub for The CW's Jane the Virgin both networks also provide no video description or secondary audio services for their programming), do not have SAP channels and thus, neither an audio description or Spanish dub track can be heard. Online streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix have yet to carry descriptive video service audio in most cases as they instead are currently focused on adding closed captioning to their libraries, though Netflix committed in April 2015 to begin audio description of their original series, starting with Daredevil (which features a blind protagonist with other heightened senses) and the remainder of their original programming in the next few months.[9]

Since that time, the amount of new DVS television programming in the United States declined, as has access to information regarding upcoming described programming, and as broadcasters like ABC and Fox instead decided to devote their SAP channels to Spanish language dubbing tracks of their shows rather than DVS due to the technical limitations of the analog NTSC standard.[2] Description by DVS and other producers is still available on television (the greatest percentage of DVS programming is still on PBS).[5] WGBH's Media Access Group continues supporting description of feature films (known as DVS Theatrical)[6] and DVS home videos/DVDs are available from WGBH as well as other vendors and libraries.[7] The commercial caption provider CaptionMax has also begun to describe programs. Benefit Media, Inc., a subsidiary of DuArt Film and Video in New York City provides DVS services to USA Network.

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started establishing various requirements for broadcasters in larger markets to improve their accessibility to audiences with hearing and vision impairments [1], DVS branched out to non-PBS programming, and soon description could be heard on the SAP for shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Simpsons. However, a federal court ruled in 2002 that the Federal Communications Commission had exceeded its jurisdiction by requiring broadcasters in the top 25 markets to carry video description.

FCC involvement

The length of descriptions and their placement by a producer into the program are largely dictated by what can fit in natural pauses in dialogue (other producers of description may have other priorities, such as synchronization with the timing of a described element's appearance, which differ from DVS's priority for detail).[3] Once recorded, placed and mixed with a copy of the original soundtrack, the DVS track is then "laid back" to the master tape on a separate audio track (for broadcast on the SAP) or to its own DVS master (for home video). For feature films, the descriptions are not mixed with the soundtrack, but kept separate as part of a DTS soundtrack.[4]

"Arthur is an 8-year-old aardvark. He wears round glasses with thick frames over his big eyes. He has two round ears on top of his oval-shaped head. He wears red sneakers and blue jeans, with a yellow sweater over a white shirt."[2]

DVS describers watch a program and write a script describing visual elements which are important in understanding what is occurring at the time and the plot as a whole. For example, in the opening credit sequence of the children's series Arthur on PBS, the description has been performed as follows:


Later, DVS became an available feature in some films and home videos, including DVDs. [1]

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