Helping People Living with Blindness or Impaired Vision Enjoy Movies and Theatre Shows

People watching a movie at a cinema

Going to the movies or the theater is a treat so many of us take for granted. Over one billion film tickets are sold and more than 47 million people watch a live theater event each year in the United States.

But not everyone enjoys movies or shows in the same way. People affected by impaired vision or blindness need a little assistance. Fortunately, technological innovations continue to help them enjoy a more immersive, engaging experience.

Descriptive Audio at the Movies

Descriptive audio (or assistive listening devices) narrate on-screen action for those with vision impairments or blindness.

The user wears the device and is fed ongoing audio descriptions of character names, actions, settings and other key elements crucial to the movie. Updates come during gaps in narrative or dialog, painting a picture with words without interrupting the user’s immersion in the story.

People affected by sight loss can request assistive listening devices when buying tickets. The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents business-owners from charging for the equipment.

Listening in at the Theatre

There’s something magical about watching a live performance. And it’s common for people living with impaired vision or blindness to visit the theatre now too.

Everything from the biggest Broadway shows to local performances offer accessibility aids.

Audio description in theatres functions much as it does at the movies. The user wears a device in their ears and a professional audio describer relates the on-stage action to them. It creates a more complete experience for the listener, allowing them to follow the dialog and narrative more closely.

The devices are designed for the listener to hear both the actors’ lines and the describer. Not all theatres offer audio descriptions, sadly, and in those which do, only certain performances are described.

The Importance of Accessibility in Entertainment and the Arts

The growth of audio description at the movies and theaters is encouraging, but there’s still work to be done. People living with impaired vision and blindness have the right to choose the date and time they watch a performance just as anyone else does.

Hopefully, more showings and performances will offer audio description for a more accessible entertainment industry. But it’s not just about the art itself. Venues must be as accessible to those with sight limitations as possible. This includes:

  • Braille maps/signage
  • high-contrast, large-print text
  • safe stairways
  • walkways and open spaces free of obstructions

Cutting-edge technology allows theatres and movie houses to take their accessibility further, though. RightHear is an innovative app providing users with clear guidance to help them find their way indoors. This indoor orientation solution is available on mobile devices and designed to boost users’ independence.

Entertainment venues can accommodate customers using RightHear by installing sensors at strategic points. These communicate with the app and inform the user how to find their way in a safe, efficient way.

Embracing the latest technology empowers businesses to welcome a more diverse clientele onto their premises and expand their audience. Everyone deserves the chance to enjoy art, and taking a few simple steps can make a huge difference.

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