The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is all about the sights and sounds of the holidays that fill us with the magic of the season. This year, those sights and sounds become more accessible for people with sensory disabilities through audio description and closed captioning.

Visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing can read a real-time transcript of the show’s audio through closed captioning. With audio description, guests who are blind, like me, or have low vision can hear descriptions of the program’s key visual elements spoken aloud when using a headset we’ll provide. The narrated audio track will describe things like facial expressions, actions, costumes and scene changes.  Audio description and closed captioning are critical components of an inclusive entertainment experience. 

When I attended the show last year with my family, my wife provided description in real-time.  In the middle of the show, I told her not to worry about describing the images because I wanted her to be able to take in the full experience.  Now with audio description, we’ll be able to share the same experience that includes enchanting scenes from The Nutcracker, a magical sleigh ride through the snow covered Pennsylvania countryside and into Philadelphia, and fantastic performances by Broadway dancers, world-class ice skaters, and actors from Philadelphia’s historic Walnut Street Theatre.

The synchronized closed captions and video descriptions are delivered via WiFi and infrared technology.  Captions are displayed on hand held devices provisioned to visitors. Similarly, guests can hear the descriptive narration using an infrared receiver with a headset.

To create the captions and audio description track, we worked with WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and Media Access Group.  By carefully timing the script they weaved the description around the music, singing, and key sound effects so that the experience is as rich as possible for our audience.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular, shown on the 83’ x 25’ Comcast Experience video wall — one of world’s largest highest resolution LED displays — has attracted more than 1 million visitors since its 2008 debut.  The show can be seen at the top of each hour 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM at Comcast Center in Philadelphia (1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd.) through New Year’s Day.

Adding assistive technologies to The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is just one great example of how we are bringing entertainment experiences to the widest possible audience, including people with disabilities.