Last summer I went to Blenheim palace near Oxford with my brother in law, sister, nephew and cousin. We got to have an audio described tour of the palace and see the gardens. It was the first time I had used an audio description handset during a tour. Today I’ll talk about my thoughts on using the guide and the tour. To find out how accessible the handset was, check out my review on the RNIB website.
The Audio Description Guide:
Previously I've been on an audio described tour that was done by a guide. I had heard of tours with a headset though. Before this tour I thought it would be a headset made up of headphones connected to an audio player that you listened to as you walked. It turned out this tour used a handset, which was shaped like a phone with headphones connected to it. It had images of the different rooms, labelled in white and audio tracks of different pieces in the rooms.
|IMAGE DESCRIPTION: The audio description handset with images of the rooms on a red and navy background and white icons for a menu, timeline and more information.|
The guide had separate pages for each room, with a list of images of items that were part of the tour. It had a good colour contrast. Everything was easy to see. But it wasn’t very accessible because:
The screen was quite dim, despite being on the highest level of brightness.
You couldn’t zoom in, read the information to the level of magnification you need.
It didn’t have Voiceover or Talkback. So if you need text to speech software to navigate it, you’ll need to ask someone for assistance.
It started on the room that was on the top left of the handset and ended on the room that was on the bottom right. Audio description played when you selected items on the list. It was displayed as the image and a scrub bar below it, with a pause and play button.
|IMAGE DESCRIPTION: White Queen Anne statue, with an image of the statue a pause button and scrub bar on the handset in front of it|
The audio description was excellent! I loved how it gave a detailed description of what the items looked like and explained the history behind them. For example in one of the rooms, there was a set of chairs people sat on during the match making process, to make sure potential couples didn't do anything taboo during their meetings. I found the audio was very clear. For the most part, it was easy to identify the items that were part of the tour. Although there was one moment where I thought glass shelves with plates was the same as the image on the guide. My brother in law told me the image had nothing to do with the one we were looking at. I blame the dim lighting for this. Oh and the fact that I had to put the handset close to my eye. There was also an image with the information as small white text. Which I couldn’t see very well.
|IMAGE DESCRIPTION: The handset with a red pop up that has information about an item in white text and glowing white circles behind it in the background.|
During the tour we were told about a new Winston Churchill exhibition. The guide didn’t have any information about it. So, my family described the pieces in the room and read out the information on display. I learnt that he wasn't the best in school and got to see some items from his childhood. There were also large screens with phones that played audio, which sounded like Churchill's voice. At one point I was listening to it, the screen went blank but the audio was still playing. I couldn't figure out how to turn it off, so quickly fled the scene. After the tour we went to see some of the gardens at the Palace. One of them was the not so secret, "secret garden". Before we left my cousin and I explored the gift shop. We didn't buy anything, but it was fun to see what they had.
Overall, I enjoyed my time at the palace. It was an interesting experience, using the handset for the first time. If you'd like to see more pictures from my visit, check out my Instagram. That's all I have for this post. Have you ever been to Blenheim Palace? Or an audio described tour? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!