Audio Described Movies and the Oscars

Empish at Concession Stand
Empish at Concession Stand

Besides diving into a great book another of my favorite pastimes is watching an audio described movie. If you are not familiar an audio describe movie provides extra verbal narration     of visual elements happening in the film. It could be hand gestures, facial expressions, physical movements or a description of clothing and action happening in the movie. It describes things that a person with vision loss might not notice or realize. A fast-pace action, suspense thriller, a funny comedy, a classic animation, a gory horror or a sappy romcom—I love them all! But the funny thing is that I didn’t really get into movies until I went blind and couldn’t see the screen. Go figure!  Then I really, really didn’t get into movies until audio description became readily available. Many years ago, I rented a couple through the GLASS Atlanta Library; but regrettably I found the selection very limited and quickly lost interest. Today that has changed because audio described movies have increased in availability with the law and demand.

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have curled up on the sofa, got under my fluffy cat blanket, grabbed my microwaved popcorn and watched a Netflix movie with audio description. It has been too many times to count. Audio description is not only available from Netflix, there is Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney +, iTunes and more.   In addition, local TV stations like ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX provide some audio described content. The cable and satellite companies have it too; but I cut the cord a while back so can’t comment too much on that.

In addition to watching audio described movies at home, I watch them at my local movie theater. The two major movie chains in my city, Regal Cinema and AMC Theatres, both offer most blockbusters and current films in audio description. When I go to the theatre, I request the device for the blind. It will be a headset attached to a small box with a little lever on the side for volume. There are also close captioning devices for the deaf and the hard of hearing. A couple of times I was given the device for the hard of hearing, which looks similar but is not attached to the small box for the volume control. Depending on the theatre you go to, you might have to do a little education with the theater staff and take time to explain exactly what you need.

Empish Using Audio Described Headset
Empish Using Audio Described Headset

The description makes a huge difference if I can enjoy the movie or not.  I have been faithfully watching audio described movies since 2014 and know that without it I will miss critical and key information. This impacts my ability to get the fullness of the film. There have been times when I have fudged my way through a movie only to talk to a sighted person later and find out I was dead wrong about a particular scene. And just forget about foreign films with English subtitles scrolling at the bottom. Sorry I can’t see enough to read them and I just understand English! LOL! No way to work my way through those movies.

Now we have come to the Oscars. I was sitting on my sofa, with my fluffy cat blanket but no popcorn this time. I was glued to the screen listening to those all too familiar words, “…and the winner is…” The majority of the Oscar winners in various categories had audio description; which is fabulous!

But the winner for best picture, parasite, was not an audio described movie. I had tried to see the film at my local theater only to notice that my device was not working. I later discovered that the distributor didn’t provide audio description. Unfortunately, this is what happens to some of the great films I would like to see. Not all movies are available to the blind community yet. I have mixed feelings about this Oscar winner and I struggled to even talk about it here on my blog because this movie made history. Parasite, a Korean-language film, won for best film, best director, best international film and best original screenplay. This is an amazing accomplishment and a positive step toward diversity and inclusion. Although It is not the Academy’s fault the movie was not accessible; people like me were left out. If you had a visual impairment you could not enjoy this film like everyone else.

But on a more positive note, since the Oscars came earlier than usual this year, several of these films, and as of this writing, are still in theaters and not on DVD or streaming yet. This means you can still catch them at the movie theater. So, grab some popcorn and get ready to enjoy a great audio describe movie!

4 thoughts on “Audio Described Movies and the Oscars

  1. Hi Empish
    First of all, it is wonderful to have audio description accessible at home with Netflix and Amazon Prime! I have also been hearing about how great audio description is at the theater. We are moving forward with technology! I’m happy to have the close captioning since I cannot catch everything with my limited hearing. I don;t see everything either so sometimes I have miss quite a few cues. I didn’t watch the Oscars but my friend told me and later I read how many awards Parasite won! It is a big shame there was no audio description for that movie. Sometimes other countries come to the forefront with technology (oftentimes Japan) but that, too, is a journey.
    I enjoyed hearing more about the benefits and how accessible, in general, audio description is nowadays.
    Thanks for sharing your recent experiences with it.
    Amy

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    1. Yes, Amy, you are right. There are more and more audio description movies available both and home and at the theater. But even with foreign films I saw two that had description. One was the Farewell spoken in Chinese and the other was the Warrior: Queen of Jhansi, not sure of the actual language but it was based in India. These movies were available in audio description. I have even seen a couple on Netflix too. So slowly but surely they are coming.

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