Home-grown audio description in Aotearoa


Audio description continues to develop and spread through the arts sector here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Still, I’m often asked “What is audio description?”

Wellington audio describers Judith Jones and Perry Piercy with Robyn Hunt at the Arts Access Awards  In this piece, written in March 2022, I have brought together a selection of local recorded audio descriptions, which you can access for free online, from anywhere.

There’s a range of topics, voices and tones, and ways of presenting and recording. For example, I’ve recorded in a professional studio – and in a cupboard! A bit of a disclaimer, some of the recordings here are my work.

If you are a newcomer to audio description, what I hope you may get from listening to the recordings, or reading the transcripts where available, is a sense of what audio description brings to a meaningful audience experience.

If you’re more familiar with it, I hope this gives you the opportunity to sample some work that is new to you. As an audio describer, I find listening to other describers’ work nourishes and extends my practice.

The audio description training workshop, held in 2014 I was in the first cohort of audio describers trained in Wellington back in March 2014. Happy eighth anniversary to all of us who took part.

In the photo, taken during that training, everyone is smiling. It reminds me what a buzz it was to learn together about this new art . We are, back row from left: Amanda Baker, Claire Noble, Peter Graham, Louise Tu’u, Nicola Owen and Shona McNeil. Front row from left: Bruce Roberts, Robyn Hunt, Judith Jones, Esmee Myers, Perry Piercy and Ruth Beran.

Let me take a moment here to also salute and celebrate our wider, developing community of practice, audio describers and our audiences here in Aotearoa – past, present and future!


Rita Angus: New Zealand Modernist

Te Papa Tongarewa

Free exhibition, December 2021 to 25 April 2022. The recordings and transcripts will be available online after the exhibition closes.

Audio description tracks and transcripts, in a format optimised for blind and low vision users, are available with hand-held devices and devices you can borrow in the gallery, or bring your own device and headphones to access in the exhibition, or listen online from anywhere, at tepapa.nz/adrita    

A webpage version is also available:  Audio descriptions for Rita Angus New Zealand Modernist.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] by Lisa Reihana

Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

Free exhibition, October 2021 – 31 July 2022. The recordings and transcripts will be available online after the exhibition closes.

Bring your own device and headphones to access in the gallery, or listen online from anywhere at tepapa.nz/ipov    

Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities

University of Canterbury, Christchurch

Online audio descriptions of selected highlights of artefacts in the Logie Collection at the Teece.

National Digital Forum Lightning Talks, 18 May 2022, Describing museum artefacts for the visually impaired

Find out more about the project and about tracking Helen Keller’s visit to the University of Canterbury – in this university news article.

Auckland Botanic Gardens sculpture trail


Twenty one audio descriptions of sculptures spread throughout the gardens, starting here.

1896: Christopher Aubrey's Taranaki

Puke Ariki Museum, New Plymouth, 2021

Audio descriptions for each painting in the exhibition are still available online. Click on each painting on the webpage and then the audio description tab: 1896: Christopher Aubrey's Taranaki, Behind the Paintings.

Toi Ako exhibition

Connect the Dots, Auckland

Toi Ako is an arts programme developed by Connect the Dots, where older people living in care work with practising artists to create new works of art. Click under each painting, for an audio description for a selection of 18 works that were part of a 2020 exhibition Art of Toi Ako.

Find out more about Connect The Dots.

National Geographic Rarely Seen Photographs of the Extraordinary Exhibition

Nelson Provincial Museum, 2021

An online, audio described tour with introduction and pre-show notes, still available on the Fresh Eyes podbean page.

Into the Open

Wellington waterfront, 2020

Into the Open was a programme of fifteen moving-image artworks projected along the Wellington waterfront as part of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2020.

The sound files and transcripts for audio descriptions of each artwork were available through the Festival and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa websites during the Festival.

They’re permanently available on Te Papa’s website.

Audio described tour of TA’AI by Nina Oberg Humphries

The Physics Room, Christchurch.

October to November 2020. Nina Oberg Humphries discusses her exhibition TA’AI in a recording, made for The Physics Room for Art, Not Science Episode 17, November 2020. The audio described tour of TA’AI for blind and low vision audiences follows at 34.20 minutes. Listen at Art, Not Science Episode 17.

All Access community collaboration between Pablos Art Studio and Neighbourhood Connections

Thistle Hall, Wellington

December, 2019. An audio descriptive tour of All Access, an exhibition with small touchable samples of all artworks, artworks shown at an accessible height, large print labels, and recorded audio descriptions and artist statements, with transcripts available.

The audio descriptions were set up ready to use on phones with headphones which you could borrow in the gallery, or use your own device to listen online from anywhere.

This is the one Ellyn Rose Smith Whatley and I partly recorded in a cupboard. Still available on the All Access exhibition SoundCloud page.

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings
City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi

Paid exhibition, December 2021 – 27 March 2022. The recordings and transcripts will be made available online, soon after the exhibition closes. We will add the link when it is available.

Performance and events

i-waengā with audio description

Touch Compass Dance Company

In 2020, Touch Compass commissioned seven artists to respond to the theme of time and space with each artist offering a different perspective. These creatives from across Aotearoa and Australia offer windows into their experiences of indigenous time, disabled time and everything in-between. 

This was shown as part of /rītaha/ the 25th anniversary of Touch Compass.

i-waengā with audio description is available on the Touch Compass YouTube channel.

Celebrating accessible arts: highlights of Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2021

This video features highlights of the Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2021 ceremony, presented by Arts Access Aotearoa.

Audio description is integrated into the video, available on Arts Access Aotearoa’s YouTube channel.

Audio description in action in Aotearoa

Find out about what’s audio described live and online via Arts Access Aotearoa’s accessible events calendar

Audio description: a 2020 personal sampler

In 2020, when there were fewer local recordings available, I wrote this blog about recorded audio descriptions I’d been listening to.

Feel free to explore a little wider with the earlier piece Audio description: a 2020 personal sampler.

Judith Jones is a Visitor Host at Te Papa Tongarewa. She is also an audio describer and a member of the Arts For All Wellington Network, facilitated by Arts Access Aotearoa.


Home-grown audio description in Aotearoa


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