Descriptive Video Service, or DVS, National Captioning Institute, or NCI, and others provide video description so blind people can "see" what is happening in movies and on TV. Audio description is used with live plays in the same way.
Imagine watching your favorite movie with your eyes shut. No peeking allowed. The movie's a mystery; the clues are mostly visual - a handwritten note shown on the screen but not read aloud, someone looking in a window, a man moving silently down a dark street. Music plays at the end of the movie, but there is no conversation; you don't know who dunnit.
Frustrating, to say the least!
What's the answer?
Ask someone? Okay, providing there is someone around who wants to watch the same movie at the same time.
But what if that someone isn't good at describing things? What if she gets caught up in the story and makes such uninformative remarks as "Oh! Look at that!" or "That is just TOO funny!". By the time all the useless comments are over, you have missed a lot of action. Or what if someone talking in a quiet theater disturbs other people?
Just as closed captioning gives a deaf person information about what is being said, so video and audio description gives a blind or visually impaired person information about what is being seen on the stage or screen.
How does it work?
Video description isn't just someone talking over the movie or program. It is a carefully-written script, professionally recorded on its own "track".
When video description is included on TV programs, it usually can only be heard on the SAP channel (the one that may carry Spanish translations or other information of interest to a specific group of viewers). In theaters, special equipment must be in place for visually impaired customers to hear the track, and headsets are used so as not to disturb others.
Video description is also available on more than 200 home videos. No special equipment is needed - just a TV and a VCR or DVD player.
Live plays are audio described in many theaters. Since live performances may not be exactly the same every time, with tiny changes in timing etc., live audio describers are needed. The describer doesn't just show up and explain what's happening; many hours of preparation are necessary to create the descriptive script and to practice speaking it at just the right moments throughout the play.
Find out if theaters in your area offer audio-described plays by giving them a call. Make sure that you ask for the dates the description is available.
Many Talking Book libraries have DVS and other video-described movies available for free loan to their blind and visually impaired patrons. Call your Talking Book library or visit its website to check on available movies.
For more information about TV programs, home videos, DVD's, and movie theaters with video description, go to the WGBH website.