UniDescription
Descriptathon

The Descriptathon Approach

A workshop that combines a hackathon, gamification studies, software training, Audio Description, and university-level pedagogy

What is a Descriptathon?

  • A gamified way to learn about Audio Description: What is Audio Description? Who uses it, and how? Why is it so important? How does it differ from other types of writing and communication? What are the best practices and top pro secrets? We use conference calls plus online tools and resources to create an engaging (and Covid-19 safe) learning environment that incorporates gameplay to investigate ideas about media accessibility, especially for people who are blind, deafblind, and low-vision.
  • A fun way to practice Audio Description: We think people learn best – no matter what the topic – when they are motivated by interactions with others and having a good time in a social setting, even if that setting is virtual. Our training is tourney-style, featuring teams and light-hearted competitions, and including Hawaii-oriented prizes.
  • An efficient way to produce Audio Description: We don't just practice these Audio Description skills in cloistered safe spaces. We also make Audio Description for real contexts during this process, openly testing our ideas in public labs all over the country (and the world). In other words, we learn about and practice Audio Description in ways that make the world more accessible at the same time.

Want to take part in a Descriptathon? The UniDescription Project is a grant-funded research initiative, so there is no direct cost to the participants (other than their time engaged in the related activities). When we gather enough grant funds to support a Descriptathon, we put one on (and invite interested parties). If you want to get involved, either as a Descriptathon participant or as a funder, send an email of interest to the project's principal investigator, Brett Oppegaard, at the brett.oppegaard@hawaii.edu email.

Here are some learner roles you can take in this project:

  • Learn on your own: UniD is open-access, meaning it's free to use and free to share your content widely. There also are many free public resources on the site. So you can create a free account and start describing right away, without restriction, independently learning about Audio Description and creating descriptions that make the world more accessible.
  • Volunteer for a Descriptathon: Our intense hackathon-inspired workshops happen roughly twice a year. We always are looking for engaged and motivated volunteers to help with Descriptathon teams. If you want to try out the three-day workshop as a volunteer, just let us know, and we'll get you on a team.
  • Create a Descriptathon team: If you have an organizational brochure (which is the object we base our current training method around), at least two organizational members who want to participate (more is fine), and grant funds to use to support the larger workshop, contact us about entering a team in the next Descriptathon.
  • Host a Descriptathon: If you have an organizational structure that could support multiple teams and even a portion of a Descriptathon (minimum of 8 teams), you might want to host your own Descriptathon, which can be tailored to your group's needs. Contact us if you are interested in that possibility.
  • A collection of Hawaii-themed prizes given out in Descriptathon 5 (Aug. 27-29, 2019) are shown, amassed on a window ledge, with tropical foilage outside of the window and in the background. At the forefront of this collection is a coconut painted with two words: 1. ALOHA (in multiple colors; the A is yellow, the L is orange, the O is a red hibiscus bloom, the H is light blue, and the final A is Peach, all in capital letters). And, 2. HAWAII, also in all caps, but this word only is in red, and it is centered and right below the
    A collection of Hawaii-themed prizes given out in Descriptathon 5 (Aug. 27-29, 2019) are shown, amassed on a window ledge, with tropical foilage outside of the window and in the background.


    DESCRIBING: A horizontal color photograph. DESCRIPTION: An aqua-blue painted coconut is placed lengthwise in the center of the frame. The image has a black background, and the coconut is surrounded by Hawaiian-themed candies, including leis filled with pineapple gummies rather than flowers, and boxes of cookies and candies. The coconut has been handpainted, with hand lettering on it as well. A large UniD logo is the focal point of the decoration. Normally, this logo is a brown capital D, with small orange and dark-blue rectangles representing sound waves in the center of the letter, where the counter space in the D normally would be. In this version, a yellow hibiscus flower, with its large petals and lengthy stem, has been added to the top left corner of the logo. Its green vines wrap around the top and the bottom of the letter. The hand lettering around it reads: 2021 D7 Champion.
    More sweets: Hawaii-themed prizes given out in Descriptathon 7 (Feb. 7-9, 2021) are shown, against a black background.

    Academic Papers

    Inclusive Digital Interactives (2020) logo
    Inclusive Digital Interactives (2020)

    Oppegaard, B. (2020). Unseeing solutions: From failures to feats through increasingly inclusive design. In J. Majewski, R. Marquis, N. Proctor, & B. Ziebarth (Eds.), Inclusive digital interactives: Best practices, innovative experiments, and questions for research. Washington, D.C.: Access Smithsonian, The Institute for Human Centered Design, & Museweb. URL: https://access.si.edu/sites/default/files/inclusive-digital-interactives-best-practices-research.pdf

    Technical Communication (2020) logo
    Technical Communication (2020)

    Conway, M., Oppegaard, B., & Hayes, T. (2020). Audio description: Making useful maps for blind and visually impaired people. Technical Communication, 67(2), 68-85. URL: https://www.stc.org/techcomm/2020/04/28/audio-description-making-useful-maps-for-blind-and-visually-impaired-people/.

    Academic Posters

    Graphic of the  poster
    CCCC Committee on Computers in Composition and Communication

    "Descriptathon Teams and Tourneys: Let the Games Commence," research poster presented by Brett Oppegaard at the annual Committee on Computers in Composition and Communication (CCCCs) Digital Praxis Poster Sessions, held online, on April 9, 2021.

    Graphic of the  poster
    SIGDOC - Special Interest Group (SIG) on Design of Communication (DOC)

    "From seeing to hearing: Lessons learned from a research-based design project focused upon audio description, print-to-acoustic remediation, and mobile-app delivery" research poster presented by Brett Oppegaard at the annual Association for Computer Machinery SIG Design of Communication (SIGDOC), held in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S., in 2016.

    Graphic of the  poster
    SIGDOC - Special Interest Group (SIG) on Design of Communication (DOC)

    "To Bracket or Not Bracket: Experiments in Gamification in the Wilds of Technical Communication" research poster presented by Brett Oppegaard at the annual Association for Computer Machinery SIG Design of Communication (SIGDOC), held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in 2017.

    Academic Presentations

    Oppegaard, B., Conway, M., & Conway, T. (2017, August 11-13). To Bracket or Not Bracket: Experiments in Gamification in the Wilds of Technical Communication. [Poster presentation]. The Association for Computer Machinery Special Interest Group on Design of Communication, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


    Oppegaard, B. (2017, May 25-29). Insider Positionality: Creating Tools and Translations to Investigate Audio Description. [Paper presentation]. International Communication Association Conference, San Diego, CA, United States.


    Oppegaard, B. (2016, September 23-24). From seeing to hearing: Research-based design experimentation in development of open-source web and mobile tools for print-to-acoustic remediation. The Association for Computer Machinery SIG Design of Communication Conference, Silver Spring, MD, United States.


    Read more Audio Description research

    Besides the scholarship we produce, we also curate in our UniD Library what we consider to be the most important research and related texts in this field of study

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