Woman handling wooden object at British Museum audio-described tour

Museums, galleries and heritage

We support museums, galleries, historic sites and natural heritage locations to increase access to, and enjoyment of, their venues, collections and programmes, for blind and partially sighted people. A range of services we can offer are detailed below, however please contact us to discuss your requirements, as we provide bespoke support.

What is audio description?

‘I’ve only had sight issues over the last three years, and museums and history were such a big part of my life beforehand that having audio description gives me a piece of my myself back, it gives me a big part of my life.’ Jo Wood (2019)

Audio description is the principal means of bringing arts and heritage to life for blind and partially sighted people. It is the use of precise, logically structured language, interwoven with historic references and cultural narratives, to evoke an artefact or a place. It can be delivered live, as an audio-described tour, or as a recorded guide, for visitors to use independently.

A recorded audio-descriptive guide differs from a museum’s regular audio guide – certainly in terms of the content, but possibly also the hardware or software by which it is accessed. Here are some examples of audio description created by VocalEyes:

Ferens Art Gallery

Wellcome Collection, Being Human

Illuminated River

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Our Services

Training courses in audio description and visual awareness

Live Audio Description

Recorded Audio Description

Audio Description of video

Creative Workshops

Consultancy

Training courses in audio description and visual awareness

‘The trainers had a deep knowledge of their subject area and a natural gift to be able to share their experiences and skills. The delivery was concise, clear and of expert calibre.’

‘I now feel I have the ability and confidence to help blind and partially sighted visitors enjoy the same experience.’

Live audio-described tours are a popular way for blind and partially sighted people to experience a museum, exhibition or heritage site. Training your team in audio description and visual awareness will equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to warmly welcome and effectively guide your visitors with sight loss, and to deliver audio-described tours as part of your public programme.

VocalEyes courses are each delivered by two experienced professionals – an audio describer and a visual awareness trainer.

Our training will support you to meet the needs of your visitors and offer equality of experience for people with sight loss.

Audio Description & Visual Awareness – for museums and galleries

Two days, up to 12 participants

This comprehensive two-day training course combines visual awareness and audio description, following which your team will be ready to deliver audio-described tours at your venue – this could comprise the full site, or a particular gallery or exhibition. The course includes an initial site visit by both trainers to support your forward-planning for implementing your skills and supporting your visitors following the training. Over the two-day course participants can expect the following outcomes:

  • Learn how to identify the barriers facing blind and partially sighted visitors who are visiting the site
  • Be able to welcome blind and partially sighted visitors
  • Be able to guide blind and partially sighted visitors using practical and verbal skills
  • Learn the principles of audio description
  • Learn how to describe artworks, artefacts and galleries
  • Learn how to incorporate available multisensory experiences
  • Learn how to devise and deliver a live audio-descriptive tour

Audio Description & Visual Awareness – for natural heritage sites

Two days, up to 12 participants

This two-day training course is specifically devised for natural heritage sites, for which outdoor space, experience of landscape and encounters with wildlife are core to the venue. This may suit a historic house within expansive, cultivated gardens, or a wild nature reserve – the sessions will be adapted to suit the aims and requirements of your unique place.

Following the course your team will have the assets to deliver audio-described tours of your site, handpicking the highlight tour stops and the most interesting and accessible routes linking them.

The course includes an initial site visit by both trainers to support your forward-planning for implementing your skills and supporting your visitors following the training. Over the two-day course participants can expect the following outcomes:

  • Learn how to identify the barriers facing blind and partially sighted visitors who are visiting the site
  • Be able to welcome blind and partially sighted visitors
  • Be able to guide blind and partially sighted visitors using practical and verbal skills
  • Learn the principles of audio description
  • Learn how to describe landscapes and settings
  • Learn how to describe specimens – flora and/or fauna
  • Learn how to capture transient encounters in the natural world
  • Learn how to draw on the multisensory nature of the outdoors
  • Learn how to devise and deliver a live audio-descriptive tour

Inclusive environment? Supporting access to natural heritage for blind and partially sighted people

Nature Narratives: Project conclusion and next steps for VocalEyes

Visual awareness and introduction to audio description

One day, up to 8 participants

This one-day intensive course offers an introduction to audio description alongside visual awareness training. The training will not be as comprehensive as the two-day course, but can support teams to begin thinking in a more inclusive and descriptive way. It may be that further training can subsequently be taken, to fully equip participants to deliver audio-descriptive tours.

The course includes an initial site visit by both trainers to support your forward-planning for supporting your blind and partially sighted visitors.  Following the one-day course participants can expect the following outcomes:

  • Learn how to identify the barriers facing blind and partially sighted visitors who are visiting the site
  • Be able to welcome blind and partially sighted visitors
  • Be able to guide blind and partially sighted visitors using practical and verbal skills
  • Learn the principles of audio description

Visual Awareness

Half-day, up to 15 participants

This half-day training course aims to equip staff to welcome and guide blind and partially sighted people. The course includes an initial site visit by both trainers to assist your forward-planning for supporting your blind and partially sighted visitors.  Following the half-day course participants can expect the following outcomes:

  • Be able to identify the barriers facing blind and partially sighted visitors at the site
  • Be able to welcome blind or partially sighted visitors appropriately • Be able to guide blind or partially sighted visitors and describe how to reach certain parts of the venue, for example an exhibition, or the café
  • Identify areas of the site that will be accessible for blind and partially sighted visitors

Extras – supplementary support for venues which have undertaken a full two-day course

Audio Description one-to-ones

This extra support will really help trainees to hone their individual audio-descriptive skills and build confidence, ready to deliver excellent visitor experiences.

Following the two-day audio description training course, trainees will practice their new skills and prepare a verbal description. Both trainers who delivered the initial course will return to the venue for one day, to see the trainees one-to-one. The trainers will feedback on their prepared descriptions, advise how to develop delivery style and answer any queries the individual has.  We recommend this Extra takes place within 8 weeks of the original course.

Marketing and audience development

This extra support is for trained venues, ready to deliver audio-descriptive tours, which need guidance on reaching and retaining an audience. The half-day session will be led by the visual awareness trainer of the original two-day course, and may take place on site, or remotely. It will be tailored to the specific requirements of the organisation, but may include, for example: support with identifying local blind and partially sighted contacts; creating accessible marketing materials, and using accessible marketing methods; identifying channels for marketing the new offer; devising a programme schedule; keeping in touch with the audience. 

Live audio description

‘I was delighted when I heard the Postal Museum in London were starting audio-described tours. As a visually impaired person I love audio-described events, because they really help me to understand and appreciate what I’m looking at, and they’re a very easy and engaging way of learning about exhibits and their history… The staff were friendly and helpful, the audio-description was clear and detailed and there was ample opportunity for discussion and questions.’

Visitor to The Postal Museum, London, 2019

If a professionally-led audio-described tour suits your requirements, VocalEyes can deliver. An audio-describer will work closely with you to devise a tour, selecting stopping points for descriptions, incorporating any multisensory opportunities, and mapping an accessible route. The describer will research and prepare the descriptions and deliver the live event. Co-delivery with a subject specialist from the venue makes for a particularly successful format. VocalEyes will support throughout the process, advising on the scheduling and logistics, and supporting with marketing, to make it a successful, accessible event. A professionally-led tour is particularly suitable for a one-off event, or for venues which cannot undertake team audio description training.

The Postal Museum: review of an audio-described tour by Glen Turner (March 2019)

Manga at the British Museum: review by Nanjiba Misbah (June 2019)

Recorded Audio Description

Recorded audio-descriptive guides can support independent visits by people with sight loss, at a time which suits them. Making them available both on your website, and on handheld devices at the venue allows visitors choice over how to access the content. Recorded audio description can take the form of a full tour with navigation directions between the stops; standalone object descriptions – for incorporation into an on site display, or to increase access to the collection online; or a venue introduction, to form a pre-visit planning tool.

VocalEyes can produce the full resource – our team of experienced describers, editors, script-testers, producers and engineers will work closely with you right up to delivery of the audio files.

There are various factors to consider if you are thinking of commissioning recorded audio description – take a look at our guide for further details (Thinking of creating a recorded audio-descriptive guide for your museum?), and feel free to contact us to discuss.

Illuminated River

Being Human at Wellcome Collection

Audio Description of film

If you are creating short films for your website, VocalEyes can script, record and provide a version with the AD track incorporated. This can then be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo as a replacement, or additional to the original film. The preparation, recording and mixing of an audio description requires expertise and specialised equipment, so a minimum fee is always charged, even though your film may only be two minutes long. Contact [email protected] if you would like a quote for film AD.

Creative workshops

Practical, creative workshops can be an active and enjoyable way to experience a gallery or exhibition. When combined with and audio-described tour, a hands-on session is an opportunity to interpret and respond to the exhibits and displays. A creative professional, experienced in working with blind and partially sighted people, will work with you to plan, prepare and deliver an artistic workshop for visitors with sight loss, at your venue. Please contact us to explore the possibilities.

Consultancy

VocalEyes work with museums, galleries and heritage sites across the UK, in a bespoke way. Please contact us to see how we can help you. Examples of how our experienced team can support you include:

  • Auditing of your current visitor experience for blind and partially sighted visitors, involving the full journey from initial website visit, to the on-site experience of your facilities. We will provide a report highlighting what is successful and advice on any ways in which to improve accessibility.
  • Audience advocacy – support and advice for reaching and growing your blind and partially sighted audiences.
  • Inclusive design workshops – undertaken at the outset of a redevelopment project to ensure subsequent design, interpretation and the visitor experience are inclusive.
  • Website access information – advance information is imperative for many people with sight loss planning a visit. Use your website to detail what you have in place to support accessible visits, and to highlight any possible barriers. The content, formatting and tone are all important for encouraging on site visits.

For all enquiries, please contact Matthew Cock, our Chief Executive on [email protected]