By Stephanie Ciccarelli
January 16, 2014
What would you do if you could not read the words typed here?
One of the most fascinating things about the written word is that it can be consumed in a number of ways, not solely relying upon one's vision.
Join guest blogger, Herb Merriweather, as he opens another dimension to us so to speak about what it's like to read without reading, to see without seeing and what it will take to make accessible media truly accessible in today's VOX Daily.
What If You Couldn't Read This?
By Herb Merriweather
Let's use our imaginations and enter into another dimension, shall we?
Upon entrance to this otherworldly dimension, your sense of vision has dulled, been reduced or most likely, has disappeared. After an initial period of severe disorientation (both physical and mental), you begin to realize that survival and accomplishment are a possibility. You lean and depend more heavily on tactile methods of communication and learning. And--because you can still hear, your auditory senses have become a key component to your advancement. There are tools available in this universe that can link you to a wider scope, a means to vanquish, if you will, your chief disability. YES--even in this shadowy dimension of light and dark and blurred image, a type of 'sight' can be achieved!
There's just one little thing--one detail--one infinitesimal flaw that stands between you and enlightenment. None of the tools work--together. It's like using traditional tools with metric components; awkward and clumsy. It's like finding a flathead screwdriver small enough to work with a Phillips-head screw. You get the idea. The technology leads to a point of frustration because it's just not finished.
Now let's awake to a very real, current time dimension--Earth today! Millions of blind/vision impaired people around the world function at astounding levels in spite of their challenges. And much technology has been developed and even laws passed to assist in enhancing quality of life. But, there's just one little thing...
Audio description* is available on many network television shows as well as many current (and upcoming) feature films, but nobody talks about it except maybe those who are directly involved.
Because it's just not finished!
Can any vision impaired person readily pick up a remote and dial up his favorite program complete with description? Not unless he's been trained by a sighted person. What about the interactive audio screen provided by cable/satellite providers instructing how to use said remote if you are vision impaired? I haven't seen that one, either. Even though mandated by federal law, has the FCC implemented a universal operations code by which accessible media could truly be accessible--something like a simple unified dial-in code (not unlike 911), where useful information can be dispensed clearly and universally? Something that can assist those in New York as well as Compton and Oahu? Uhhh--not yet.
The dimensions have collided (as Rod Serling might say)--your imaginary dimension of frustration borne from a small, yet extremely important missing concept and the very real daily frustrations of those who are constantly called 'inspirational' for just wanting to function like you do.
I'm reminded of a question some used to ask at the start of the civil rights movement.
"What do those people want?"
The answer? The right tool for the job. They want it finished.
*Audio description: Audio Description involves the accessibility of the visual images of theater, television, movies, and other art forms for people who are blind, have low vision, or who are otherwise visually impaired. It is a narration service (provided at no additional charge to the patron) that attempts to describe what the sighted person takes for granted -- those images that a person who is blind or visually impaired formerly could only experience through the whispered asides from a sighted companion.