click here to skip directly to page content
Media Access Group  Versión en español
About Us Services and Products Research and Development Resources Get Involved

A wealth of information for producers, broadcasters, distributors, exhibitors, consumers, parents, and educators.

ABCs of DVS®

What is the Descriptive Video Service®?
If you're not already familiar with description -- a valuable resource for viewers who are blind or visually impaired -- let us introduce you to it. As part of The Media Access Group at WGBH, Descriptive Video Service-- or DVS® for short -- provides descriptive narration of the key visual elements of television programs, feature films, home videos, DVDs, and other visual media to make them accessible to viewers with visual disabilities. When we refer to "key visual elements," we mean any part of a presentation that such viewers would ordinarily miss, such as the characters' actions, costumes, gestures, and facial expressions, as well as scene changes and onscreen text -- all of which are important to fully understand the program or film. DVS describers make productions accessible by identifying and composing descriptions of important visual details and then inserting them during natural pauses in dialogue. The result is a finished soundtrack that engages these viewers with the story by enabling them to "see" audibly.

Children's Television Available with Description
Great news for children with visual impairments and their families! These days, television broadcasters -- including PBS, commercial broadcasters, and cable networks -- are offering an increased number of children's programs with video description thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Education and program producers. The following regularly scheduled kids' favorites air with description, so check your local listings for broadcast times:
  • Adventures from the Book of Virtues (PBS)
  • Arthur(PBS)
  • Between the Lions (PBS)
  • Blue's Clues (Nickelodeon & CBS/Nick Jr.)
  • Cyberchase (PBS)
  • Magic School Bus (Fox)
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (PBS)
  • Rugrats (Nickelodeon)
  • Zoboomafoo (PBS)
  • Zoom (PBS)

Family Films Available with Description on the Turner Classic Movies Cable Network
For those of you whose local cable provider carries the Turner Classic Movies network, you're in luck! There are more than 125 wonderful films available with video description for viewers with visual impairments on TCM, which airs described films every Saturday night at 6pm during DVS Showcase. The following is a selection of TCM's popular family film offerings -- films that have entertained generations of viewers and are now accessible to today's generation of viewers, thanks to description. Funding for the description of these titles is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

For a complete listing of TCM's described films (which offer description with each broadcast), call the DVS Information Line at 1-800-333-1203 or visit our Web site at For broadcast times and dates of specific films, check your local TCM listings.
  • The Adventures of Huck Finn
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Captains Courageous
  • Challenge to Lassie
  • A Christmas Story
  • Clarence the Crossed-Eyed Lion
  • The Corn Is Green
  • The Courage of Lassie
  • Easter Parade
  • Edison the Man
  • Flipper
  • Gallant Bess
  • Glass Bottom Boat
  • I Remember Mama
  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Lassie Comes Home
  • Life Begins for Andy Hardy
  • Little Women
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • The Miracle Worker
  • National Velvet
  • Please Don't Eat the Daisies
  • The Secret Garden
  • Son of Lassie
  • Tom Thumb
  • Treasure Island
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • The Yearling

How to Access Description on Your TV
Narrated descriptions open up a whole new world of entertainment and learning for viewers with visual disabilities, and accessing them is a very simple process. To access descriptions of a television program, you'll need either a TV or VCR equipped with stereo, a VCR with the Second Audio Program (SAP) -- both of which are standard after 1992 - or a stand-alone SAP receiver. If you're using a TV or VCR, simply activate the SAP feature through the TV's remote control or onscreen menu (sometimes it's labeled "MTS," which provides a choice of SAP, mono or stereo; if you have difficulty locating this feature, consult the equipment manual or call the manufacturer). If you're using a stand-alone SAP receiver, which functions very much like a radio, simply tune it to the channel that broadcasts the description soundtrack (may be used in addition to a TV or for audio only). Pre-tuned and adjustable SAP receivers may be purchased from FM Atlas at 218-879-7676.

Family Films Available with Description from DVS Home Video
For those of you who like to watch your favorite films more than once or who cannot access the TCM cable network, we're pleased to provide the DVS Home Video catalogue. Full of family films available on VHS, it enables you to purchase described movies for yourself and as gifts. Many of these DVS-format films also are available by loan at your local public library, so contact your local library for availability. No special equipment is necessary since the descriptions are part of the movie audio -- just pop it in the VCR and hit "Play"! Funding for the description of these titles is provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Browse the DVS Home Video( catalogue.

New Title Updates
For the latest information about programs and movies of interest to children with visual impairments and their families, visit our comprehensive Web site at regularly. We update it often with new TV and film titles for your enjoyment!

Arthur: The Most Popular -- and Accessible -- Kids' Show on TV!
In case you don't know Arthur Read, he's the star of Arthur, PBS's daily animated children's series, which follows the adventures and misadventures of the 8-year-old aardvark, his younger sister D.W., and his friends and family. Based on the popular Arthur books by author/illustrator Marc Brown, it's the favorite children's TV show among 2- to 11-year-olds across the country. In addition to winning millions of young fans, it has received numerous awards. But the very best news is Arthur is the most accessible children's program on television!

All-Access Arthur
The Media Access Group at WGBH wants to expand the reach of the hit Arthur series to as many young viewers as possible. That's why we describe each program for viewers who are blind or visually impaired and caption each program for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. And we're especially happy to provide two sets of captions with every broadcast -- original, near-verbatim captions for kids with stronger reading skills and edited captions for those who are not yet fluent readers.

Educational Arthur
While Arthur entertains its many young fans, the series also helps teach them how to read, spell, and solve problems, making it educational as well. Each episode focuses on themes and events central to real children's lives and offers simple lessons from which viewers can learn. Thanks to Arthur's educational, age-appropriate content, parents, teachers, and librarians are encouraged to share the series with kids both at home and in school.

What Do Arthur Characters Look Like?
Here are some actual video descriptions of the main characters from the Arthur series, in which Arthur and his friends are cartoon animals who dress, walk, and talk like real kids:

"Arthur is an 8-year-old aardvark. He wears round glasses with thick frames over his big eyes. He has two round ears on top of his oval-shaped head. He wears red sneakers and blue jeans, with a yellow sweater over a white shirt."

"Arthur's friend Francine looks like a monkey. She has short, shoulder-length brown hair. She wears a red sweatshirt and jeans."

"Arthur's family members are aardvarks, too. His younger sister D.W. is about 4 years old and has small, round eyes and light brown hair down to her shoulders. She wears a pink dress with white tights."

"Muffy looks like a monkey. She wears a fancy purple dress and matching bows in her long, braided pigtails."

"Arthur's friend Buster has long, white bunny ears on top of his head. You can see his big front teeth when he laughs."

Give Us Your Feedback!
Once you've had the opportunity to use video description, please let us know what you think. Your feedback (positive or negative) will help us to improve the quality of our service even further. And if there are specific programs that you'd like to have described, let us know about those as well. We look forward to hearing from you! Send your comments and/or requests to us at, or call us at 617-300-3600 (voice/TTY).

For a Braille copy of this brochure, contact us at 617-300-3600.

Contact us

Caption Services Description Services NCAM