I'm blind, but I love going to the movies. Here's how it works – Ausnew Home Care

I'm blind, but I love going to the movies. Here's how it works

blind Blindness disability NDIS

As a person who is vision impaired, hearing is a substitute for eyesight in so many contexts.

The assumption is that if you are without sight, your other senses must be sharpened. This is, of course, complete nonsense.

I often hear: "He has supersonic hearing." Apart from being an illogical statement (how can your hearing be faster than the speed of sound?), this is an example of the sorts of observations people make, presuming that I have excellent hearing just because I'm blind.

If this contention were true, a person who is deaf-blind would find themselves in a paradoxical situation. Being deaf, their vision would be excellent, and vice versa.

In the TV comedy show A Bit of Fry & Laurie, there's an amusing sketch in which Hugh Laurie plays a man who is both deaf and blind, and consequently the two disabilities cancel each other out.

Even though my hearing is unremarkable, it is true that as a person who is vision-impaired, I do focus more on the other senses. After all, I only have four rather than the usual five.

Listening is a great way of acquiring information about the world. For me, hearing takes the place of vision in a range of scenarios, including listening to audio books, accessing computers and smartphones through a screen reader, using audible traffic signals to navigate the city, and receiving verbal descriptions from people in various contexts.

Touch plays a similar role: reading braille documents, playing chess with tactile pieces, and using a white cane for mobility.

I love the cinema

Despite being vision-impaired, I love going to the movies.

On one occasion, after going to the cinema to experience Guardians of the Galaxy, I told a friend it had been a great movie.

"How do you know?" he said.

Most people have no idea how a person who is blind experiences a film. Unless you are vision-impaired, you probably wouldn't know about audio description (AD).

AD is a separate audio track which provides a verbal description of all the visual elements of a movie. Cinema chains offer AD for some films, which is what allows me to enjoy them.

The cinema staff give you a receiver and you can plug in headphones so as not to disturb other patrons.

I like to have a bud-style earphone in one ear which allows me to hear the descriptions while also being able to clearly hear the sound of the film, the dialogue, the sound effects.

The describer only speaks when there are gaps in the dialogue, as it's important not to miss any information you might obtain from what the characters are saying.

The descriptions enhance your understanding of the film by explaining all the visual elements which you would otherwise miss. This is particularly useful in action scenes.

A lot of effort goes into writing the scripts. They need to be mindful of how many seconds they have to describe something, and they have to make decisions about what are the most important things to describe. With limited time, you can't describe everything.

The cast of the classic British comedy, Fawlty Towers
British comedy classic Fawlty Towers.(



How Fawlty Towers changed

Audio description doesn't only occur in cinemas. It can also be done in live theatre, public events and art galleries, in addition to TV shows and DVDs.

It's gratifying to see shows with AD currently being programmed on the ABC and SBS. It would be great if commercial TV networks were to follow suit.

Here's an example of how AD can enhance the experience of watching a program. I'd been a fan of the British TV sitcom Fawlty Towers for many years.

Then I purchased all 12 episodes of the series on DVD and, to my delight, they were audio-described. In the episode "The Psychiatrist", a hotel guest (Mr Johnson) smuggles his date into his room. Since the young woman doesn't have any dialogue, I had been unaware of her existence. My belief was that Basil had wrongly assumed there was a girl in Johnson's room — that is, until I listened to the episode with AD which describes Mr Johnson ushering his date through the lobby and into his hotel room.

These are the sorts of visual elements you miss when you watch a show without AD.

More than a replacement

If done well, AD can be a wonderful experience.

But so often, there are issues with the AD equipment. Perhaps the unit hasn't been fully charged, or else it hasn't been set to the correct channel.

My local cinema has mostly been able to get things working satisfactorily.

The usual strategy is to have a second unit standing by in case the initial one isn't functioning.

Reading isn't just done with the eyes. Reading is about getting information to the brain, and this can be done through the ears, or the fingertips.

Watching TV or film isn't just a visual activity, but is also done aurally, listening to sounds and verbal descriptions.

Source: ABC

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