When explaining web accessibility to the uninitiated I find that it sometimes helps to apply the concept to other mediums. Here’s an example I hadn’t thought of before. Imagine trying to watch The Simpsons without actually watching The Simpsons. Each episode has a million little sight gags and visual clues that fly by so quickly that you practically need a TiVo to keep up.
So how do visually impaired people watch The Simpsons? With the Descriptive Video Service (DVS) of course. DVS is an audio track that explains the action taking place in a television program. With The Simpsons that includes reading all of the oddball signs that fly by during the course of an episode (not to mention Bart’s scribbling on the chalk board at the start of each episode).
WFMU’s station manager Ken has an interesting post about his accidental discovery of the DVS signal while battling with his broken VCR. Like many people, he hadn’t really given any thought to how visually impaired users might watch and enjoy programs like The Simpsons. At first he assumed The Simpsons were doing a parody of Arrested Development.
Ken also makes some interesting observations regarding censorship and editorializing on the DVS track, but that’s probably a topic for another post on another blog.
At any rate, if you’re interested in hearing what the DVS track for The Simpsons sounds like, Ken has posted an entire episode available for download.