Accessi-bowl: The Super Bowl & Accessibility

1 February 2018 / RightHear / Mollie Cole, Community & Content Manager

For some, February in the USA might mean Valentine’s Day. To others, it’s dedicated to a different kind of love: a love of football (no, not soccer), and the near-holy day set aside for a showdown between the two best football teams of the year. Those that have a deep love for the game will have been watching the playoffs, hoping their favorite team will get through to the big match. A lot of people bet on the playoffs on sites like FanDuel hoping to win big before the match on Sunday. February is Super Bowl month, and Super Bowl commercials and parties seem to take the country by storm.

But how can the event not just be a Super Bowl, but an AccessiBowl?

The Super Bowl & Accessibility

One of the most important feature to help football fans would be audio description of the action. NBC offered this service during the 2016 Olympics, and it is more commonplace for movies and TV shows. Essentially, between normal dialogue or what broadcasters are saying, DVS adds in rich verbal descriptions of exactly what is happening on the screen so fans who are blind have a better idea of what’s happening in the game. This is a little easier for movies and TV shows — there is a set script, so “audio captioners” can know exactly when to say what about the movie or show.

Live sporting events present a unique challenge. Broadcasters have to be prepared to interject right between broadcasters, picking up on even the slightest moment of silence. They also have to explain the most important visual details by describing things that some sighted people wouldn’t even realize they are noticing. For the Olympics, NBC’s broadcasters’ studied hours of tape for each sport to prepare to describe the unique moves and plays in each one.

Unfortunately, there’s no confirmation yet that the same will be done for the Super Bowl this year. However, if you want to help bring accessibility to the Super Bowl, consider hosting a Super Bowl party or planning your bar’s Super Bowl Sunday events with accessibility in mind.

At a Super Bowl party in your own home, a lot of the things you would normally do for sighted guests will make a big difference for guests who are blind or visually impaired. Simply being a good host or hostess — offering to grab another plate of food for someone, rather than them getting up — also makes the experience more enjoyable for someone who is blind or visually impaired. Making sure to pick up loose items, leave clear pathways, and telling people how to get around your house are common courtesies that are especially important for guests that are blind/visually impaired. Instead of telling a guest (sighted or visually impaired) that “the food is in the kitchen” and expecting them to figure out where the kitchen is, say, “the food is in the kitchen, which is down the hall and then through the opening on your right,” in order to make sure guests can properly orient themselves at your house.

If you own a bar, the RightHear solution can take care of orientation for you. It will verbally tell your visitors where the restrooms are, there the bar is to order, where the booths are, or about any other point of interest in your bar. If you rearrange your typical set-up for Super Bowl Sunday or are offering a special promotion on wings, you can easily change the RightHear content in real-time to make sure all of your visitors can enjoy the full experience in your bar or pub. If you don’t have RightHear, tell your waiter and hosts to let guests know if you’ve changed the layout or where important points of interest are within the bar.

No matter if you’re hosting a party in your home or preparing your bar for one of the biggest nights of the year, you can help everyone get in on the action. Cheering, being excited, and spreading energy isn’t something someone has to see, it’s something they can feel. This makes for an incredibly memorable experience. Be specific when you cheer on your team — instead of yelling “Touchdown!” when your team scores, celebrate even more and scream, “Falcons touchdown!” so a fan who is blind knows which team scored! This goes for fumbles, field goals, interceptions, or any other big play where it is easy to get caught in the moment and forget to describe what’s actually happening in the game. During the game, describing which players are where on the field in even more detail will go along way to helping a fan who is blind get the most out of the experience.

The same goes for commercials — everyone loves Super Bowl commercials. As iconic as the game itself, do your best to make sure everyone can fully experience them. If a funny commercial has no dialog, and audio description isn’t available, a guest who is blind won’t get the joke. Quickly describing what’s happening on screen will keep everyone included. While this might be trickier to do in a loud, crowded bar, make your best efforts towards accessibility. They will be appreciated, and will win you loyal customers for the next big game.

How do you enjoy the Super Bowl? Tell us in the comments and share this post on social media in time for the big game!

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