Blind and low vision access

This page has information about audio description, touch tours, a directory of audio describers, international examples and other resources.

Audio description

Audio description is a narrated commentary for blind and low vision patrons that provides descriptions of the visual elements. In a theatrical performance, audio description narrates what’s happening on stage in between the dialogue or songs: for example, new scenes, settings, costume, body language, facial expression, movements across the stage and sight gags.

Audio describers sit in a soundproof room and talk into a microphone to provide the commentary. They need to have a clear view of the stage from the room or, alternatively, they need to be in a soundproof room with a television monitor showing the action onstage. If the audio describers have a stenomask (hand-held microphone built into a padded, sound-proof enclosure that fits over the speaker's mouth or nose and mouth), they won't need to be in a soundproof room.

Their narration is transmitted to wireless receivers and headsets worn by the audience members. It does not impact on the experience for other audience members.

Integrated audio description 


Touch tours

An audio described performance usually includes a touch tour before the performance. Here are some ideas:

  • For theatre, opera and musicals, patrons can explore the set and costumes, and possibly meet the director and cast to help them match the characters’ voices with their names. 
  • For performances incorporating dance or circus, patrons can gain an appreciation of the different props, moves or poses. 
  • For music performances, patrons can feel and hear the various instruments, and get a sense of how the performers are arranged on the stage. 

It’s usually the role of the audio describer to liaise with the stage manager to select the most important props and set pieces to be on stage, and to determine how the touch tour will be arranged (for example, where the patrons will stand, whether they will walk around or have items brought to them). 

Each patron will need a guide (no more than two patrons per guide) and the stage will fill up quickly. Plan the simplest possible route on to and off the stage, and have ushers or volunteers on hand to assist with guiding. 

A touch tour is always most effective when enthusiastic performers and crew engage with the patrons. And in fact, they usually enjoy the opportunity. Schedule the tour early enough so that your cast and crew can participate and still get away in time to prepare before curtain up.  

Introductory notes

Introductory notes



Audio describers directory and training




Audio description equipment

Audio description equipment



Audio description resources

This page includes links to online articles, Q & A Insights about audio description in New Zealand, and guidelines, information sheets and useful links. Read our audio description resources

International examples


Reports, research and further reading



Stace Robertson: Stace is Lead Accessibility Advisor, Arts Access Aotearoa (T: 04802 4349 E: Stace works Monday to Thursday.  More about Stace

Milly Hampton: Milly is Arts For All Activator, Arts Access Aotearoa (T: 04802 4349 E: Milly works Monday to Thursday.  More about Milly

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Access Services Directory

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Connect through music: this video was made by Lala Rolls of Island Productions Aotearoa for Arts Access Aotearoa and Chamber Music New Zealand.

Access for all:
“The good thing about being focused on access and accessibility is that you create a better experience for everybody,” says Philip Patston in this video, made by Lala Rolls of Island Productions Aotearoa for Arts Access Aotearoa. 


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