Do blind and visually impaired people go to the movies? Of course, we do! The same enjoyment we all get from a shared experience of laughing, crying, and a chair-grabbing thriller can be just as entertaining with limited vision or no vision. The real question is how? The television, film, and Broadway industries are required by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to provide audio description.
What is audio description or video description (an industry term)? A voice will come through a device that is connected to headphones that will describe to the listener the non-verbal action on the movie screen or the action on the stage (on a TV the audio description comes through the speakers of your television.).
When you have decided that you want to see a movie or show, there is a certain amount of preparation and/or stress waiting for you. The smartphone and computer have made it really easy to find a theater or movie near you. Buying your tickets online can be challenging, but when possible speak to a live person. When speaking to a person on the phone or buying your tickets at the theater, donít forget to ask for the disabled discount or simply say that youíre blind or visually impaired. This disclosure will seriously affect the price of a seat and its location, as you will see.
Entering the lobby of a theater can be quite intimidating, but remember, you are surrounded by people; and if you have a guide dog or a cane, people notice. Do not be afraid to ask for help in a crowded lobby. Your goal is the managerís counter because that is where the audio description devices are kept. Most of the time you can also purchase your tickets at the same counter where you pick up your audio description device. The audio description device is a square black box about the size of a pack of cigarettes with a volume rocker switch on the side and a push down power button next to a little light. The headphones are connected to this box at the top near the power button. I suggest that you bring your own headphones just for cleanliness. The usher will escort you to the bathroom or snack bar before guiding you to your assigned seat.
When you purchase your ticket, and they ask where you want to sit, or even if they donít ask where you want to sit, choose your seat carefully! Of course, sitting in the seats closest to the aisle is okay, but if possible, always take disabled seating. Disabled seating is always closest to the exit, and you will appreciate that when leaving a crowded theater or in an emergency situation. The disabled seats are wider, have more leg room, and are generally more comfortable.
As your usher hands you the audio description device, turn it on and make sure it works. The usher will usually leave before the movie starts; but ask him or her to return after the movie has started because unfortunately the devices donít always work, or in some cases the device may play the wrong movie. (Yeah, it happens.) After you have confirmed that the device is working, and it is playing the right movie, enjoy! But wait! Remind the usher to come back and escort you out of the theater at the end of the movie.
When the movie or show is over, the usher should come back to your disabled seating to take the device and guide you out of the theater. Sometimes the ushers are really busy, so you may have to wait a bit. I suggest that you always have the number of the theater in your phone or smartphone in case you need assistance.
We at GNYCB (the Greater New York Council of the Blind) are avid moviegoers, but even we have issues with accessibility in the theaters. So join GNYCB so everybody can say, ďLetís go to the movies!Ē
Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas in Chelsea has worked continuously with GNYCB to improve their services to our community. Keep it up.
Cinepolis Luxury Cinema
260 West 23rd Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)