What is a TextDS File?

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When it comes to making media accessible for low-vision consumers, there are several options to choose from. Audio description is a common solution, along with screen readers and other accessibility technology. But what happens when you want to combine these two? The child of these accessible tech parents is called a textDS file!

TextDS files are essentially an audio description file, but in text form. When you want to marry the description voiceover of content with the dialogue into a single form that can be used for screen readers, a textDS file is the best candidate for the job. It contains all of the dialogue, all of the on-screen text, and a description of what is happening in the video, all in one piece of content. TextDS files can also go a long way towards making your content WCAG 2.0 compatible, too. Pretty neat, huh?

We’re no stranger to media accessibility, so we’re familiar with many types of files. We’ve already put a handy list together outlining the 5 most common closed captioning file types. With textDS files, there are a few key differences between them and our other usual file types.

  • One: Text DS files don’t require timing elements, unlike standard caption files. We can create a textDS file with timing included, but your standard textDS file doesn’t need timing information.
  • Two: TextDS files have specific advantages over standard audio description files. In instances where on-screen text conflicts with dialogue, an audio description file may not be able to include that on-screen text as it may have conflicted with the dialogue or been difficult to fit in. A textDS file ends up being more complete and flows more smoothly. Because of this, textDS files work especially well for dialogue-heavy videos.
  • Three: TextDS files are also easy to create in any language; though typically written in English or Latin American Spanish, we have the capability to write them in any destination language.

Creating a textDS file requires a lot of collaboration. You have caption writers creating a verbatim script of what is said on-screen, working with description script writers who paint a picture of what is happening on-screen to contextualize the action. With this in mind, textDS files do take a little longer to create, but they don’t take quite as long as a standard description file as there is no need for recording audio. When your textDS file is complete, it is typically delivered as a .doc or .pdf file. Since textDS is a different animal than captioning or subtitling, it cannot be delivered as a .vtt or subtitle file.

Here’s an example of what a textDS file can look like:

TextDS files can have a reputation of being shrouded in mystery and confusion, and it’s understandable to be puzzled by such a versatile file. In the end, it just might be that complex versatility that make textDS files so valuable, and their flexibility is what gives blind and low-vision users the ability to fully comprehend web content with a screen reader. Hopefully this primer has helped pull back the veil of mystery on these files types!