Some people might wonder how a blind or visually impaired person watches a movie. Do those with vision loss even go to the movie theater? My name is Hillary Kleck and I am the mother of a child with a visual impairment. The passion to make the world fully accessible comes mostly from my daughter, Madilyn. She is now 8 years old and truly wants to enjoy movies with her friends in theaters and at home, just like every other child.
Madilyn perceives the world primarily with her senses of hearing and touch. Without sight, she cannot see the colorful scenery, movie character's funny faces, or those little nonverbal hints we get about the story through watching it with our eyes. In fact, Madilyn doesn't have eyes at all. She was born with a rare condition called bilateral anophthalmia in which her eyeball tissue and optic nerve never developed.
Audio description, also referred to as video description, is an additional narration track for blind and visually impaired consumers of visual media including movies, television and other arts entertainment. It consists of a narrator talking through the presentation, describing what is happening on the screen during the natural pauses in the audio, and sometimes during dialogue if absolutely necessary.
Why is it important? Movies are a key element to our culture. Blind and visually impaired people are not able to rely on sight to obtain information, and therefore need to use senses other than vision to acquire information. For the movie experience, only the sense of hearing is available. For blind and visually impaired children who are learning to comprehend the world, they will typically need to have clear explanations provided for learning and understanding, including learning new experiences as we do through movies. Audio description tracks and services are the answer to helping these children grow and learn with their sighted peers, and participate in society when they are older. It is a right, not an option.
Because of my daughter, I got involved in the Perceive the Movie Campaign. Blind children and adults have the right to know about the images in a movie to completely understand the storyline, characters' actions, and scenery as sighted persons observes every time they attend a theater or watch a movie at home. The Perceive the Movie campaign was created to bring awareness to the public, both blind and sighted, that this technology does exist and is a civil right to viewers with visual impairments. The petition on Change.org requests all Major Film Studios in the US provide the audio described track on their movies in theater, disc and digital releases, as well as companies that digitally stream entertainment through other devices. By joining together to share a voice for children like Madilyn, we can inform others of the need for such services to insure all children thrive from an early age, becoming contributing and interactive members of society.
For more information on the Perceive the Movie Campaign and to sign the petition go to http://www.change.org/petitions/perceive-the-movie-an-audio-description-for-the-blind-campaign.
Perceive the Movie isn’t alone in our quest to ensure equal access to visual media. The Audio Description Project, an initiative of the American Council of the Blind, provides a variety of information regarding audio description, including describer training, lists of movies and television with AD tracks, and the latest news in the industry. Visit them online at http://www.acb.org/adp/index.html.
Hollywood Access Services, an LLC based out of Burbank, California, produces audio description tracks providing the most vivid experience to visually impaired consumers of motion pictures, home entertainment and television programming. Their products include Solo-Dx (TM), a premium audio description track file that you can download to your own MP3 player and play along with your favorite movie or television show anywhere! They are currently hosting a Crowdfunder campaign to build their library of titles. Any contribution, both financially and sharing socially, will have a profound impact on accessibility and the lives of children and adults with visual impairments. Please consider sharing their page, as well. http://www.crowdfunder.com/campaign/281