RE: The term "auditory description"

Hi, Kynn and everyone else:

Well, I stick by my original post:  I prefer audio description to auditory
description.  If you say "auditory description" to someone in the AD
industry, you'll get a weird look and hear "You mean *audio* description,"
in reply.  Ian proposed using both terms in the UAAG guidelines ("An
auditory description (sometimes, "audio description")..."), something I am
not crazy about but can live with because the difference between the two is
rather fine and I don't think it's worth having a _huge_ discussion over it.
(Which is why I haven't kicked and screamed since Ian came up with that
compromise.)  But since you've asked... given my druthers, I would rather
see the WAI use audio description, for all the reasons I've stated before:
it's an accepted term in the industry (reason enough right there) and has
been in steady use for a number of years, and it's already part of Section
508 and the SMIL 2.0 soon-to-be recommendation.  If we use this term
consistently in all documents, the general public will, in fact, become
familiar with it and thus come to know what it means.

Geoff Freed

-----Original Message-----
From: Kynn Bartlett []
Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2001 5:08 PM
Subject: The term "auditory description"

Hi, Geoff --

In March you wrote to the WAI UA working group about the use of the
term "auditory
description" instead of "audio description", as quoted here:

>My only objection to this definition is the term itself.  "Audio
>description" has become the industry's
>  generic term for extra tracks of descriptive narration.  It is used
>in Section 508; in SMIL 2.0, there's an
>  element called systemAudioDesc, not systemAuditoryDesc, which is
>used to toggle descriptions on or
>  off, if present.   Thus, in the interest of conformity and clarity,
>I think you're better off replacing
>  "auditory description" with "audio description".
>Geoff Freed

The term has been questioned on the WCAG working group list
as well, and I'd like to ask you for more information.  Specifically,
I wrote the following recently as a way of describing how I would
approach the discrepancy:
>If there are two audiences here -- people with accessibility familiarity
>and people without -- it's important to look at not only whether one
>side would see it as "just wrong" but also -how- wrong that would be.
>For example, let's imagine a scenario which might or might not be
>* People who are familiar with the term "audio description" understand
>    instantly what that means.
>* People not already familiar with the term might have a problem --
>    "is it a description of the audio? (i.e. a transcript) or is it
>    verbal audio track describing the video?"  Is an "audio description"
>    meant to benefit someone who can't hear, or someone who can't
>    see?
>* An "auditory description" might be easier for those people who don't
>    know "audio description" to understand, because it is somewhat less
>    ambiguous.
>* In this scenario, the primary variable would be "how bad is it to
>    use 'auditory description'?", for those users who know the term
>    "audio description".
>* Which of the following reactions would someone who understand "audio
>    description" have when encountering "auditory description":
>    1.  Mental equivalency of the two terms, even without thinking about
>        it.
>    2.  "Auditory description?  What the ****?  I have no idea what
>        means. *shrug*"
>    3.  "Oh, those silly W3C people, using 'auditory' when they mean
>        'audio'. *giggle*"
>    4.  "Huh, weird, they're calling it 'auditory', not 'audio' -- I
>        guess they're catering to a dumber audience than me."
>    5.  "Gosh, my pet peeve meter is tweaked whenever I see that. Ha,
>        ha."
>    6.  Unprintable outrage and unveiled scorn for the morons on the
>        working group who printed such garbage.
>    7.  Some other reaction.
>My guess is that reactions #1 or maybe #4 are the most common.  However,
>if the use of "auditory" instead of "audio" would provoke reactions
>which lead to outright rejection of the documents in question, then
>clearly this needs to be given higher weight.
>Those are my thoughts and a sample hypothetical scenario.

Can you share your own thoughts on this topic, Geoff?  I would like
to hear what
you have to say regarding this.

(FWIW, to my ears -- unaccustomed to multimedia accessibility issues -- the
term "auditory description" seems more explicit than "audio description",
but I
don't have your background and would like to benefit from your experience on
this topic. Thanks.)


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Kynn Bartlett <>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
Tel +1 949-567-7006

Received on Thursday, 5 July 2001 21:05:59 UTC