A black rectangle fades in on a soft background, it's top suddenly split by a thin line of white, streaming down and filling the bottom third. In the upper portion, bright capital letters A and V become typed on either side, accompanied by two solid strikes of an old typewriter. Underneath, the sounds change to soft clicking, as small dotted patterns start to appear, looking at first like Braille. The clicking becomes melodic as a sudden flurry of pixels forms the word AppleVis. The sounds fade into the background, a soft, continuous digital echo.
Transition to a dim room, lit by a single lamp. A gentlemen sits facing a laptop resting on a large wooden computer desk, dark glasses underneath a baseball cap pulled down over his forehead.
The man reaches to the computer, pushing the On button. Bong! The system startup sound reverbs from the paneled walls. A voice begins emanating from the laptop.
"Yo, Human! VoiceOver is on. Welcome to macOS." The scene fades to black.
I wish people came with audio descriptions. Came with what?
There are ongoing efforts by many in the blind, research and entertainment communities that are helping to bring an entire form of communication into the non-visual realm. Audio described videos have an extra track that is created by talented writers, and artistically recorded by voice actors. These recordings describe the visual content that occurs in-between the actors dialogue. They are provided for the blind and visually impaired. If you have never experienced one of these specially created videos, it can be difficult to even understand the need.
If you are a visual person, try the following example for better awareness. Close your eyes for a few minutes during a new movie or TV show. You will discover...
2 lines of dialogue + 3 minutes of music and sound effects = lost. What just happened, and who is that new voice? Often, before you can figure out what is happening, the story is moving ahead.
Up until very recently, audio described video was difficult to find. This is starting to change in no small part thanks to the current efforts of ACB, The American Council of the Blind, among others. See the link below for more information.
Back to the original topic...
As I lost my sight, I began to notice some communication problems with people on a one-to-one basis. This is actually a well known issue for which people learn to adapt, at least to some degree. Facial expressions and body language to help interpret the communication can be greatly reduced on the non-visual side. This does not mean that they should be avoided, but rather allow them in your normal interactions. They cause small changes in your tonal inflections that can be learned with practice. This situation can even occur in reverse if the non-visual person is wearing dark glasses. The all-important eye-contact to verify the intent simply may not be there. It can cause misunderstandings and adjustment periods in any relationships, for both parties.
I'm thinking I need someone to follow me around and say stuff like, "While she may sound convincingly put off, she is actually smiling and winking at the same time."
Maybe Morgan Freeman is available? :-)
Short of having Mr. Freeman follow me around (To which you are most certainly welcome!), I can only offer the following links and advice, patience and understanding are beneficial on both sides.
There are some very good tips here... Vision Australia, Communicating effectively with people who are blind: http://www.visionaustralia.org/living-with-low-vision/family-friends-and-carers/communicating-effectively-with-people-who-are-blind
One step at a time.
Audio described Video is one step towards an environment of better inclusion for blind and visually impaired people. There are now more avenues of access for these specially made videos than ever before. The offerings are expanding into more genres, including entertainment, children's videos, documentaries and some news broadcasts. Sitting and enjoying a movie or TV show with family and friends has become a staple of many modern cultures. Now through recent efforts, the blind and visually impaired can be more included in the fun.
This is not to say that the struggle is over, the ball is finally getting rolling. A few thousand videos is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of available videos and broadcasts that visually exist. However, I whole heartedly applaud the recent and ongoing efforts! it's always more than I am aware of, some of which has been going on for years.
Something to ponder, the animated video described in this blog does not actually exist, I created the description to match the topic. From the blind viewpoint, I could listen to a description at the beginning of a video, and never know if the animation was really there. A perplexing situation, in one case, if the animation is really there then something is being described that some cannot see. If the animation is not there but the description is, then again, something is being described that some cannot see. It's a good thought-exercise that shows how easily things could be turned around. However, in both cases, if the descriptions 'are' there then no one gets lost. :-)
In this upcoming age of inclusion, can we learn to be inclusive by default? Can we learn to include all forms of information, even if we don't yet understand it's uses? For instance, I would like to have the description track as text, mixed with the transcript, like having an instant ebook describing the movie. But, maybe this is already being done?
It seems like communicating with others can be a moment-by-moment exercise for all people. Adjustments to interactions can be made as the conversation evolves. Videos on the other hand, have always been very visual and story driven. If a portion is missed or misunderstood, the video will not wait for you or try to explain itself better. Audio Descriptions is a major step towards adjusting the inclusion conversation with our own evolving culture.
If you would like to learn more about Audio Described Video...
Audio Description Project, American Council of the Blind: http://acb.org/adp/
Of note, Netflix has recently begun adding Audio Descriptions to many of their original productions since 2015-ish. I personally have begun watching several TV series, Dare-Devil, Travelers and OA. All of these seem to be done very well!
You can also do a search on your favorite search engine for "Audio Description", and find some good resources.
To turn on Audio Descriptions:
In iOS: open, Settings>Accessibility>Audio Descriptions>Prefer Audio Descriptions and set to 'On'.
In macOS: open, System Preferences>Accessibility. In the Accessibility Features Table, choose "Descriptions". In the main window, select the checkbox for "Play audio descriptions when available".
Some apps on either platform may have their own settings as well.
Additionally, some of the major broadcast networks, on cable and over-the-air , use the SAP (Secondary Audio Programming) channel to provide any additional audio track that might be available. These can be Audio Descriptions, Spanish or French languages, or sometimes even emergency alerts. Any video that supplies another language may turn off the default language. To correct this simply turn off the SAP channel again.
And, I'm sure if Mr. Freeman were here he would end up describing himself a lot, because that's the direction I would be looking most of the time, a big grin on my face! :-)
A descriptive reminder that all of our cool digital stuff that we work with, play with and enjoy, is all about "Living." Live well!
A black rectangle fades in on a soft background, it's top suddenly split by a thin line of white, streaming down and filling the bottom third. In the upper portion, bright capital letters A and V become typed on either side, one after the other. Underneath, dotted patterns start to appear looking at first like Braille, then in a flurry of pixels, the word AppleVis forms. Below, in fine lettering it reads, "A community-powered website for blind and low-vision users of Apple's range of Mac computers, the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV and Apple Watch."
A small twinkle appears on a random letter for a brief moment. The scene fades to black.
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