Do Blind People Go To The Movies?
Back in my college years, I spent three summers working at Camp Mo-Val, a United Church of Christ summer camp outside Union, Missouri. My first summer, I was less than three years into blindness and still learning my way through life. Plus, I was only 21 and, even without all the trauma and drama of the previous three years, it’s still a confusing and conflicting time of life.
Anyway, one of the assignments at camp that summer was, “The Marc and Dasher Show.” And actually, this was a bit of a misnomer because there was really no show. It was just a group of kids sitting around and learning about blindness and the adaptations blind people have to make.
To get the convo started, I’d pose this question to the campers: “What things do you love to do that you think you wouldn’t be able to do if you were blind?” They’d fire back with everything from bike riding to video games to reading to watching TV…pretty much anything you can think of. In turn, I’d give them the adaptations a blind person would have to make to do those activities, but that they were still able to do them.
When the subject of movies came up, technology wasn’t as advanced. And, with my A.D.D., I’m usually not the person to ask about movies. I just get fidgety and bored, so I’m never the first person to suggest going to a movie. But, there is this thing called audio and video description. This is nothing more than a narrator describing the action on the screen that a blind person wouldn’t pick up on.
Last night, the Hottness, Jordan and me went to see Zero Dark Thirty. And there was audio description. At the customer service counter at the Regal Cinema, I was given the hardware. It’s really just a pair of headphones plugged into a device that’s smaller than a cassette tape. Put on the headphone when the movie begins and a narrator gives the play by play of the actions on the screen. For example, in Zero Dark Thirty, the main character is Maya, a CIA operative on the hunt for UBL. During a montage, the narrator would say stuff like:
“Maya sits at her desk, her face intense as satellite images appear on the computer screen. Her eyes dart between the monitor and a map of the middle east on the wall. A scruffy agent from her time in Pakistan walks up behind her, pulling a DVD from his pocket.”
This isn’t a direct quote, but you get the idea. There is a part of movie “watching” which will never be fully accessible to someone without sight. You cannot capture, in short segments of words, the visual cinematography of an image. Maybe this is why I’d prefer to read instead of going to the movies. Or, maybe I just have a short attention span. Whatever, it’s really nice that Regal Cinemas, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures are now taking into account the needs and desires of their viewers without sight.
And, here’s another element: going to movies is a social thing. No, you’re not supposed to talk during a movie. And I don’t. Especially not in a drama like this. But, immediately afterward, there is a flurry of conversations about everyone’s opinions, things they loved, things they hated, questions they had, etc. It spurs conversation because of a common experience. Thank you, Regal and Columbia and Sony, for allowing blind folks to be part of this conversation.