How The Visually Impaired Tuned Into Rio’s Olympic Coverage
Live audio descriptions allow all people to experience the thrills of the world's largest sporting events as they happen
NBC, the network that paid $1.23 billion to exclusively broadcast the Olympics, is now letting the visually impaired enjoy the games live through audio descriptions. Using sound captioning of what’s usually just available on-screen, narrators tell a visual story of what’s going on in Rio.
These audio descriptions, also called video descriptions, are superimposed over the clips. Just as subtitles aid people with hearing disabilities, audio descriptions help those who can’t see by syncing spoken word alongside the content. This medium, however, is far harder to work with because it can easily overlap with audio dialogue from the movie itself and result in mishmash that’s hard to understand, whereas subtitles only occupy a fraction of the screen and affect the media itself minimally. This is a challenge worth taking for NBC, but particularly more difficult for filming like the Olympics where video descriptions are streamed live.