Verbal Description Training

Developing  Skills of Describing Visual Images and Objects Using
Non-visual Language.

What is Verbal Description?

Verbal description uses non-visual language to convey the visual world. It can navigate a visitor through a museum, orient a listener to a work of art, or provide access to the visual aspects of a performance.

We recommend that verbal description trainings include an interactive element when patrons who are blind and visually impaired could provide immediate feedback. Although glasses simulating different visual impairments are used by some educators, they are not a substitute for a firsthand experience. The PPT is developed for staff/educator/docent training and self-study.

Listening and Writing Exercises:

You might consider listening to a variety of recorded verbal descriptions prior to or after the training. There are a couple of ways of doing this:

  1. Use our online database of verbal descriptions of paintings, sculpture, interiors, historical objects and small decorative items.
  2. Download podcasts from our  Art Beyond Sight iTunes U and listen to the verbal descriptions on your iPod or phone. Our podcasts are free and include verbal description of art from baroque to contemporary, descriptions of American Art from colonial to contemporary, as well as sound interpretations of artistic styles such as surrealism, cubism, abstraction, etc.
  3. Some museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City make their verbal descriptions available online and through iTunes.
  4. For verbal descriptions of architecture and public art in New York go to New York Beyond Sight website or download from Art Beyond Sight on iTunes.



Please complete the survey after you have tested these materials.

Your feedback is much appreciated.

Were you able to access multimedia: i.e., the PowerPoint, links to banks of online verbal descriptions, sample verbal descriptions, video re Albright-Knox Educator?

If you were unable to access multimedia, what was the problem?

How did you review these materials?

If used in a training, which of the following apply (you can check more than one)?

Regarding the Power Point: Please rate the following sections as too long, good as is, or missing important information/needs expanding (please note what you would like added).

• Planning a verbal description tour opening section (slides 6-10)

If missing info (slides 6-10), please explain

• Section on verbal description (slides 11-31)

If missing info (slides 11-31), please explain

• Section on describing environment/lobby (slides 32-34)

If missing info (slides 32-34), please explain

• Slide on writing exercises (35)

If missing info (slides 35), please explain

I have not used these materials for a docent training, but plan to do so.

Would a short video of a museum educator leading a verbal description tour (with open discussion among participants) be helpful?

Are there other audio/video materials that you wish you had regarding providing verbal description tours for adults who are blind or have low vision? Please explain.

Your Name, Affiliation, and Email Address

Verbal Description Resources:

Verbal Description Database

New York Beyond Sight

London Beyond Sight

Verbal Description for Audio Guide


Georgia Krantz, Guggenheim Museum. Verbal Description demonstration 


Adelia Gregory, Brooklyn Museum. Verbal Description demonstration 


Mariann Smith, Curator of Education at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, on how they began Verbal Description Tours


Blind art patron Dennis Sparacino on the value of sound in understanding visual art.

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