Do You Know when Your TV Shows Are on? Do They Have Audio Description? Or Are You Still in the Dark?

Vicki Vogt exhibiting ways to access TV and movies.
Vicki Vogt exhibiting ways to access TV and movies.

When you first lose vision you may not want to go near the TV set or the movies for a long time. You miss the faces, the expressions and the action too much. And it is horrible having to keep asking what is happening or where the ball is.

After some years this may change and you may find a way to enjoy watching (or listening to) TV shows, and movies at home. But where do you get movies with the extra audio track describing the action? And how do you know when your shows are on?

Hannah says: I have always been a slouch about this.  I either slick through channels till I find something I can bear to watch, or I ask the nearest person with good vision to read off the menu.  After this blog post maybe I will reform! (Comcast have a new remote which talks to you, which we will describe next month.)

There is now a big improvement available for both movies and TV. Setting up your TV to receive the improvement is not a piece of cake, and the big challenge is learning how to get the TV listings for all shows in a format you can access .

I interviewed Vicki Vogt who is the Reader Advisor at Perkins Talking Book Library to get all the information.


Audio described movies you watch at home

If you are new to vision loss, the simplest first step is to borrow audio described movies on DVD (AD DVDs) from your regional talking books library. (When these were on video cassettes they were known as DVS movies.)

Don’t panic. The movie is still the same. An AD DVD is the original movie with an extra voice telling you what’s happening. The commentary is inserted into spaces in the dialog and describes the scene, actions and expressions of the characters. It works well for most people and usually adds to your enjoyment.

Vicki says:. We have 1200 movies with audio description, which you can order from the Talking Books Library, just like books and magazines. You then watch them on your DVD player.

Before you play an AD DVD you do have to go into the movies menu and click on audio description. It is usually under settings or language.
There are details of how to purchase AD DVDs on the American Council of the Blind website.  Amazon and Target both sell them. Amazon has all the movies. First find out which movies are audio described then search for the movie by title. A picture of the symbol for audio describtion is at the end of this post.

TV shows with audio description

Vicki says: In 2010 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that 20 TV channels had to have 4 hours per week of shows with audio description (AD) added to them on a separate track. To receive the additional track you have to find and switch on the button on your TV labeled SAP (second Audio Program). This applies to TV sets that are ten years old or less. On newer models the SAP track may be on the TV menu and be called AD.

 Hannah says:  Here is more information about configuring SAP

Which shows have AD?

Until just recently there were devoted people announcing all the AD TV shows each week, but the good thing is there are now so many that it is hard to keep up with them; the bad thing is the devoted folks have stopped doing this and you have to check the on line listings. Only NBC and USA Network have a phone number to call for the current AD shows.  All the links to the network listings of current shows are at the end of this post just above the symbol for AD.

General Listings for TV shows (not AD)

Now we get to the real learning curve! The National Federation of the Blind put all TV listings on the Newsline’s service. First you need to join Newsline. It is a telephone registration (free) at


Then you can start on your TV listings:

On the telephone access method, you

  1. press 8 from the Main Menu for TV listings
  2. then press 1 to set up your channel line-up.
    *After pressing 1 it will ask you for your zip code, TV provider, and time zone. Once you answer those 3 questions, it will create your channel line-up.
  3. Once your set up is created, you press the number 8 from the Main Menu and then the number 2 to go to your channel line-up.
  4. You then can use the navigation keys to go through the channels, jump to a specific channel, or jump to a specific time or day within the listings.
  5. While in the TV listings, you can press the # sign once to go into Help mode. While in this mode you can press any number on the keypad to learn its function within TV listings. And to exit this Help mode, just press the * key.

This information was kindly provided by Gina Russo, Perkins Library.

If you have survived all this detail,, you may be glad to know that next week the blog post will be all about public toilets.


Here are the links to the different network AD shows provided by Vicki:

ABC [see St. Louis Affiliate for described show listing]


Disney Channel

FOX [look for “AD)))” symbol]

NBC [call 818-777-7030 for listing]

Nickelodeon [most shows on Nick Jr. are also described]

TBS [look for “DVS”]

TCM [call 404-885-5535 for monthly listing, press 2] (As of 2/5/15 it hasn’t been updated since November 2014)

TNT [look for “DVS”]

USA Network [or call 212-664-7010, not a free call]


Audio Description logo - stylized bold black AD with three curved volume waves after it.
Audio Description logo – stylized bold black AD with three curved volume waves after it.


3 thoughts on “Do You Know when Your TV Shows Are on? Do They Have Audio Description? Or Are You Still in the Dark?

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post. My brother and I (both totally blind) are recording a “disability in film,” movie review show for our local Radio Reading Service. We talk about audio description during the broadcast:: realizing that many may not be aware of this service. Having “a.d.” has also enriched our ability to “review” the films we present.

    1. Hi Linda, I am so glad this was helpful I am delighted that you and your brother do a show about it. It is a problem for many blind people don’t you think. Which radio reading service is it on? There is an addition to the post coming out tomorrow or Thursday. Best wishes, Hannah

  2. i use the TV Guide app on my iPhone and iPad to tell what is on. It is voiceOver accessible and can be set to your cable apor satellite orovider and your zip code, so you get the correct channel number. You can also select a shorter list of your favorite channels and only display those. I can’t read the program guide in the TV and this has really helped. Also, Apple TV with voice over has been a huge help with services like Hulu and Netflix.

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