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Audio described cinema and DVD information.

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Cinema audio description (AD) is a fantastic service for people with sight loss. The normal film soundtrack is broadcast to cinema speakers in the usual way, whilst a recorded narrator explains what's happening on screen - in gaps in the dialogue - through personal headphones.

Not all cinemas provide audio description. We suggest that you contact cinemas in your area and ask if they provide it. We suggest that you request that the cinema informs you of its AD shows regularly, by email. Almost all cinemas can provide listings by email.

The YourLocalCinema service used to gather audio described listings from cinemas websites all over the UK and Ireland, but we have ceased providing them because we found that there were many cases where the listings were unreliable. If in the future we feel that cinemas have improved the accuracy of their AD listings, we will once again promote them. In the meantime, we suggest that people contact cinemas in their area and request that the cinema informs you of its AD shows regularly, by email. Almost all cinemas provide listings by email to news agencies.

Hundreds of UK cinemas can screen almost every popular film with audio description (AD).

All cinemas now have digital projection, which means that they can all read and broadcast an available AD track. Although most POPULAR films have an AD track available, overall only around 25% of cinema releases are provided to cinemas with an AD track. But for a person with sight loss to actually hear that track, a cinema needs to invest in a receiver, to pick up the track. This is usually combined with wireless infra-red headphones.

The number of cinemas that have AD receiver facilities is around 50%. Almost all modern multiplex cinemas have AD receiver facilities, including almost all Odeon, Vue and Cineworld sites.

But many smaller cinemas have yet to invest in AD receiver facilities. It’s rare for a pop-up cinema, outdoor event, community club etc. to provide access via AD (or subtitles, for people with hearing loss).

For cinemas that provide the service, AD should be available at every screening of every film that contains an AD track, in every auditorium that has the necessary receiver facilities.

AD tracks are not always included on the eventual DVD release, even if they have been produced for the cinema release. And although many TV channels can now offer audio description on programmes and films, and online, available AD film tracks are not always re-used by TV companies.

Ideally all cinemas would provide accessible, AD shows of popular films, do their very best to provide an equal service, to enable its customers with sight loss to enjoy the cinema experience with family and friends.

UK film distributors spent almost £500,000 on subtitle and audio description tracks last year for almost 200 films. The larger distributors ensure that tracks are included with all of their films. The top 50 box office films usually include subtitle and AD tracks on release date.

Every week more than 300 cinemas nationwide, including almost most multiplex cinemas, provide thousands of accessible shows.

Please contact cinemas in your area and request that they provide accessible, AD shows of popular films. Request that the cinema does its best to provide an equal service, to enable its customers with sight loss to enjoy the cinema experience with family and friends.

To cater for people with sight loss, to enable them to participate in activities and spend money can be costly, simply because their numbers are limited. It’s generally accepted by service providers that to provide ‘access’ facilities - wheelchair spaces, ramps, disabled toilets/parking spaces, elevators, audio/text info - may not always be 'economically viable’. (Though it may be less costly than the long-term economic impact of exclusion).


The cinema industry IS looking into new solutions. Products are available that can receive audio description (AD) tracks, via a standard headphone socket, enabling customers with sight loss to use their own, familiar, regular headphones to experience the isolated AD narration track, rather than the current choice of cinema-supplied, over-the-ear headphones (which can block out the 'regular' film soundtrack that's delivered via cinema surround speakers).

Smartphones can be used as AD solutions, via a simple app. But as yet, no official infrastructure is in place to synchronise an AD track to a a phone. In theory, there’s no need to depend on cinemas to provide an AD service. Film distributors and cinemas could work together to ensure that all films have an audio cue that triggers an AD track to stream to smartphones, and sync to the film.

It’s hoped that eventually, subtitles and AD will be just another ubiquitous access facility - like beeping traffic crossings, bus audio announcements etc.

In the meantime, here’s a link to some great 10 minute AD samples of the latest films:

"Last night I thoroughly enjoyed a film for the first time in my life. The film was Gravity. I had heard it looks fantastic, amazing visuals, spectacular, all descriptions that are not very useful to person with severe sight loss. But I'm a space-buff, I just had to catch it on a huge screen. I've seen IMAX space films before I lost my sight, so kind of knew what to expect. For Gravity, all I could see on the cinema screen were black and white blobs and mis-shapes of various sizes. But that's more than I can usually see in a film. The contrast of the white suits of the astronauts floating around the black of space made the film clearer than any I've seen in a long time. But without the audio description explaining what was going on the story, with its many long dialogue-free scenes would have been lost on me. It was absolutely gripping. I was on the edge of my seat! I really felt like I was up there with the characters. It was a wonderful experience."

More feedback here:

Audio described DVD info:


YourLocalCinema is grateful to the Film Distributors’ Association and the BFI for the ongoing support which enables the service to continue its audience development work, helping people with hearing or sight loss to enjoy the cinema experience.

Before 2000, the only way people with severe hearing loss could enjoy cinema was to watch a foreign-language film. And people with sight loss didn't visit cinemas. Nowadays subtitles and audio description enable people with hearing or sight loss to enjoy, rather than endure the cinema experience.

Accessible cinema shows benefit people of all ages with hearing or sight loss. Each year around 800 children are born in the UK with significant hearing loss (NDCS) and every day another 100 people start to lose their sight (RNIB). Our society is ageing. With ageing, loss of some hearing and sight is inevitable. Access to film - via subtitles and audio description - is something that we may all appreciate, eventually.

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