Help make video on the web more accessible: join the ‘Describe-a-thon’

Since it was launched in 2005, YouTube has become the de facto platform for videos online – whether on the site itself, or embedded into countless other sites across the web. Most of the museums and theatres that we work with use it, though some prefer Vimeo. However from an access stance, it’s long been a source of frustration that while it’s relatively easy to add captions to YouTube videos (something which our colleagues at Stagetext are expert at), it’s not been possible to add a secondary audio track which would make audio description possible.

That is, until the launch of YouDescribe, developed by the Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center (VDRDC), based at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, California, and run by Joshua Miele, a blind scientist, designer, and educator with decades of active involvement in the world of technology, accessibility and disability.

YouDescribe is the first video service to allow anybody, anywhere, to record and upload video descriptions to the cloud, that can be played back at any time by anyone who wishes to use it. The team has recently added 4 useful pages providing General information about YouDescribeFAQ pages for viewers, FAQ pages for describers and a step-by-step audio description tutorial with a troubleshooting section.

Describe-a-thon: what will YouDescribe?

YouDescribe is holding a ‘Describe-a-thon’ on 21 April, when amateur and professional describers all over the world will participate in a day of description, with the aim that volunteer describers will describe as many YouTube videos of as many kinds as they can in a single day. For more information, please visit the Describe-a-thon 2018 web page, follow YouDescribe on Twitter (@SKERI_YD) or join the Facebook event. They also have a community of practice on Facebook and a Google Forms sign-up sheet to help them keep track of the number of people participating, allow them to offer help and support, and even issue prizes!

Volunteer viewers can rate videos 1-5 stars on the website, or the new iOS app currently in beta testing (download the iOS app from the iTunes Store).

Registered Describe-a-thon participants will receive more information about using YouDescribe, techniques for describing video, and will be eligible for prizes ($25 Amazon gift cards) for such categories as:

  • Best Description of a Music Video
  • Best Description of an Educational Video or Documentary
  • Best Description of a Promotional Video or Commercial
  • Best Description of a How-To or Instructional Video
  • Most Creative (Yet Effective) Description Style
  • Most Impressive Describer

Note that prize categories are somewhat flexible, and additional prizes for outstanding contributions may be awarded at the organizer’s discretion.

Sign Up For Describe-a-thon 2018!