Friday, November 4, 2011

Seeing through Listening: DVS and MoPix

We recently took Madilyn is to the theater to see The Lion King 3D. Yes it was in only available in 3D where we went so we had to pay the price for an option only my husband and I were able to take advantage of but oh well! We chose the specific theater because I found a tip online that said it offered Descriptive Audio Services for the Visually Impaired. I even called to confirm this and the guy that answered didn't even pause before saying "yes." But guess what? The only option they offered when we asked the girl at the window was a set of headphones which, once the movie started, we found out only increased the volume of what the other loud speakers were already blaring. We were disappointed but stayed anyway.

I closed my eyes as the movie began, listening for clues about what was being shown. There were none. Throughout the first half of the movie, someone that could not see the pictures, had no idea the lion cub was born. The infamous scene of the baboon holding the sweet innocent lion cub with eyes wide, looking out from top the pointed rock overlooking kneeling zebras, hippopotamuses and more never happened for my daughter.

What is the rest of the movie without this unforgettable scene? Well to Madilyn it seemed to only be a few funny voices and familiar songs. She sat through it but could not keep up with the story since she could not see the pictures. Unless a doctor somewhere, someday successfully performs eye transplants including the optic nerve, she will never see it.

But how can I ensure she still has the opportunity to enjoy it as much as I did as a kid? Through described audio!

So what is described audio? Well, WGBH describes it as a way to "make television programs, feature films, DVDs, museum exhibits, theme park attractions and other visual media accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired by providing descriptive narration of key visual elements. Key visual elements include actions, costumes, gestures and scene changes which, when described, engage a viewer who is blind or visually impaired with the story." Read more on their website at

If you're looking for audio description on DVDs, locate the audio options listed on the back of the package. Look for the line "audio described track" or "DVS". Not all movies have this feature, but many do, especially new Bluray discs. WGBH also lists movies that do and some with a link to buy online.

If your local theater does not offer DVS, as ours does not at this time, you can petition for them to install it through Mopix. Find out more about advocating here We've included our short and sweet intro email to our local theater (Dickinson Theatre chain) for your reference. You're welcome to copy and paste, then fill in with your information to send to your local theater as well! Happy Listening!

Dear [name of theater],

My family and I frequently attend your theater to see all the latest movies, however my [daughter Madilyn, age 6], is completely blind and is unable to get the full experience at your facility. Could you please install the MoPix DVS system to enable blind movie goers to enjoy your theater as much as my husband and I do. We would be more than happy to help raise awareness of the cause and even raise funds to get the technology installed in our town. 

I would love to talk more about the possibility with you. You can also check out WGBH MoPix online at to learn more about it, including costs, etc. Thank you for your kind consideration. 

[contact info]

You can also look for this logo:

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