See No Evil? Definitely Not Without Audio Description

For many years, people who are blind or vision impaired have not had access to cinema or television. Audio description can change that.

Senator Stephen Conroy last week announced that ABC1 will trial audio description in 2012, giving people who are blind or vision impaired access to something most of us take for granted.

Movie reviews swim through your head as you settle into the upholstered seat with your popcorn. The opening scene starts to screen, setting the background to the movie.

There is no dialogue.

While everyone is watching intently, you sit silently, waiting for a cue to give you a hint of what is being shared on the screen before you. It doesn’t come.

You head home defeated. As someone who is blind or vision impaired, you are more than often left in the dark – quite literally – in regards to the comings and goings shown on a movie or TV screen. Many people who are blind or vision impaired have told me that they often decline invitations to attend a movie with friends to avoid ‘putting out’ others who have to describe the visual elements of a film. Then there are the movie goers who not so subtly “ssshhhh” you for whispering through a movie. So you sit in silence, making sense of the plot as best you can or simply dismiss cinemas as “not for you”.

The age old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” rings true. For someone who has been blind all of their life, it’s hard to know what you don’t have and what you might be missing out on.

Access to the cinema has (very slowly) improved for people who are blind or vision impaired with the introduction of audio description (AD) in cinemas. AD is a way to describe the visual elements seen on screen in a clear and private manner.

Audio description is the difference between knowing what is going on and sitting in a dark cinema or your living room feeling included and excluded at exactly the same moment.

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Accessibility, Access, Inclusion, Aids, Equipment, Technology

Robyn Gaile

ABC Ramp Up

Date published:
Mon 27th Feb, 2012