Access to the Arts

From Broadway to Ballet, IRIS volunteers provide live Audio Description for performances and community events. Patrons hear this “play by play” of the visual elements of a performance on a headset provided by IRIS.

Audio Description is scheduled for the performance dates listed below. It can also be arranged by special request.

When we first started talking about bringing Audio Description to Des Moines, we knew it would be a steep climb. We would need equipment, a volunteer team, training for those volunteers and community stakeholders to partner with us in this project. Most importantly, we would need money to get started. After a short conversation about our plans, Eileen and Ron Bowerman surprised the daylights out of us with an offer to provide the seed money we needed.

ALL of us owe a debt of gratitude to the Bowerman family – without their passion for the arts and accessibility for all Iowans – we would still be merely “talking” about Audio Description. Thanks to them, the equipment is purchased and installed, the team is established, training is about to begin and our first described performance is in October!


One of the reasons I enjoy volunteering at IRIS is that, through my participation here, I have come to realize what a valuable resource this is for the people of Iowa who depend upon it. I have also come to realize that its existence and purpose are not widely known in the general community. So, when Maryfrances told me about this project, it seemed to me there was not only a need for it, but an opportunity to expand IRIS’ purpose and its visibility in the community. And, when she told me of the need for funding, my husband and I felt this was something which we could help develop.

Art, theater and music are all important in our lives; and there are abundant examples of all of them in the Des Moines area. How better to enrich the lives of those we serve than to bring these art forms to them to enjoy. After brain-storming with friends regarding a name for the project, we chose to recommend “Sensation,” because it not only implies the sensational nature of the art forms we will be describing, but also ties into the feelings we all experience in our senses and emotions as we listen to and appreciate these performances.

Eileen Bowerman

Sensation Audio Description Team


The team consists of current IRIS volunteers and a few new faces. We are so fortunate to have volunteers who want to take on MORE for our listeners! 25 volunteers gave up a beautiful three-day weekend to learn the art of description. We are now practicing our skills at “saying what we see”!


The most natural place to begin described performances is the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. From Chief Operating Officer Laura Sweet to engineering, marketing and ticketing , the Civic Center staff has been committed to IRIS and this project. Our thanks to the Civic Center for supporting accessibility once again.


Thanks to the Bowermans, we start this project with two systems. Each system consists of a transmitter, receivers and headsets for the listeners. The static system has been installed at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. The portable system will be available to provide description at all kinds of performances and events.


Joel Snyder, president of Audio Description Associates in Maryland, is known internationally as one of the first audio describers. His descriptions have been heard on the PBS, ABC and FOX networks, feature films like “Shrek the Third,” “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Dreamgirls,” and special events such as live coverage of the Inauguration of President Obama on ABC. See the full list of Joel’s Projects

Audio Description Performances

March 22, 2020 at 2:00pm – Singin’ in the Rain

June 7, 2020 at 2:00pm – Leaving Iowa

July 19, 2020 at 2:00pm – Roald Dahl’s Matilda

For tickets, call 515.277.6261

March 1, 2020 at 1:00pm – Anastasia

May 17, 2020 at 1:00pm – The Band’s Visit

June 21, 2020 at 1:00pm – Wicked

August 2, 2020 at 1:00pm – The Book of Mormon

For tickets, call 515.246.2300

February 1, 2020 at 7:30pm – The New Colossus

April 4, 2020 at 7:30pm – Beautiful

For tickets, call 1.800.HANCHER


For tickets, call 515.244.0507