Descriptive Video Helps All Students

September 11, 2018
3 min read
A group of kids crowd together, laughing and making the peace sign with their hands

DV, or Descriptive Video helps teach students of all ages and abilities. 

You may have heard of Descriptive Video for TV. How it helps thousands of people with visual impairments and blindness watch TV and film. But there’s more: Descriptive Video is an useful teaching tool too. Descriptive Video helps students with visual impairments, and the rest of us, see more of the visual world by explaining it.

DV helps people with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, autism, dyslexia and more.

Descriptive Video helps by creating lots of new information and words. It takes a visual image and makes it verbal so everyone can see it. An example from Descriptive Video Works CEO Diane Johnson: “A teacher trained in descriptive video services would not hold up a picture of a brown teddy bear and read aloud: "see the teddy bear." Instead they might say: "The teddy bear is furry, short and wearing a blue tee-shirt---just like our school soccer uniforms, only small enough to fit a teddy bear. A very special teddy bear wearing blue jeans like yours”.

This example shows how Audio Description introduces new words, invites comparisons, and uses metaphor—possible even with small children. It’s clear that Descriptive Video makes books accessible to children who have low vision or are blind. Less well known is that it helps everyone develop more complex language skills. It helps kids learn to love reading and the gift of language.

Non-disabled people benefit from Descriptive Video too.

"You got this" scrawled in chalk on cement

Descriptive Video services shows details that would otherwise go unnoticed. Because description happens in "real time"—and especially if a program contains a lot of dialogue or other sound elements—describers must be clear. There's no time to describe everything; they must choose what's most important to convey the essence of the visual experience. Then they must find words that are concise, vivid, and imaginative to bring images in their listeners' mind's eyes.

Descriptive Video helps students on the autistic spectrum because it identifies emotions.  It also clarifies scenes, useful for students struggling to identify too many different people at once. Descriptive video names the key character so visuals and the audio together create a complete picture. Second, captions further explain what is going on visually. Captions should identify the speaker and what's being said as well as other sounds, like birds singing, car tires screeching, and song lyrics.

For people on the autistic spectrum, captions give a greater understanding and context. The takeaway: Descriptive video is a useful teaching aid. It can help students of all abilities and ages overcome communication barriers.


Garman, Judith, Autistic spectrum, captions and audio description. Mindful Research: Usability, Accessibility and Ethnography.

Hoffner, Helen, et al. “Lights, Cameras, Pencils! Using Descriptive Video to Enhance Writing.” The Reading Teacher, vol. 61, no. 7, 2008, pp. 576–579. JSTOR, JSTOR,

October 24, 2023

Check Out Our New Website and Logo!

We are excited to announce that we have a new and improved website, and a redesigned logo to better serve our clients and audience.  The DVW (Descriptive Video Works) website has been updated and… Continue Reading Check Out Our New Website and Logo!
May 15, 2023

Celebrating 20 years of Descriptive Video Works!

On Thursday, May 4, Descriptive Video Works celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Granville Island Hotel, with a special evening of cocktails, memories, mingling and fun. This milestone event was attended by current and… Continue Reading Celebrating 20 years of Descriptive Video Works!
April 5, 2023

Please help us welcome Jennissary to the DVW team!

Jennissary (she/her) writes about her new role at DVW, as Producer for Live and Interactive Audio Description. About four years ago, someone made a request for sighted assistance on a gaming forum. When I… Continue Reading Please help us welcome Jennissary to the DVW team!
March 30, 2023

Hollywood’s Biggest Night Embraced Accessibility

The 95th annual Oscars™ celebration took place on March 12th, and this year Hollywood’s biggest night was more accessible than ever, with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, custom design for the event including ramp… Continue Reading Hollywood’s Biggest Night Embraced Accessibility
November 7, 2022

Welcome Nefertiti Matos Olivares!

Descriptive Video Works would like to welcome Nefertiti Matos Olivares to the team, as our new Workflow Manager for Quality and Inclusion, based in New York. Nefertiti comes to the role with an extensive… Continue Reading Welcome Nefertiti Matos Olivares!
DVW Logo: Descriptive Video Works in white.
Netflix Logo: A red letter N encircled by the words Post Partner Program.
TPN Logo: A shield with the letters TPN is ringed by a reel of tape beside the words Trusted Partner Network. Underneath are the words: Powered by Motion Picture Association.

Copyright © 2023

Opening entertainment experiences to people who are blind and low vision through audio description. On time. On budget. On target.

Descriptive Video Works
147 W 3rd Avenue
Vancouver, BC
V5Y 1E6