There is a common misconception that if you’re blind, you can’t watch movies or TV because you can’t see them. That is not true. With the right mix of audio descriptions and the existing dialog and sound effects, people who are blind can enjoy movies and TV shows as much as their sighted counterparts can. Audio descriptions are often built into DVD or provided as a headset in theaters.
Solo-Dx is a new audio description service developed by experienced entertainment professionals at Hollywood Access Services. This company provides audio description services for theme park attractions, museums, and entertainment such as movies and TV shows.
The primary factor that Solo-Dx apart from other audio description services is that it is accessible from the get-go. The purpose of this new service is to allow the blind to independently access movies and TV shows without the help of their sighted peers. For other services they have to rely on sighted peers to turn the settings on in the DVD. In movie theaters, the most common problem is that you could end up with a headset that doesn’t work. I know that drill with using hearing devices in theaters. One time I was given an audio description headset instead of one for hearing. So I missed the entire first act of the play. Mix ups are possible, especially if the ushers or movie theater personnel aren’t familiar with the devices.
Solo-Dx consists of an mp3 file that you can download on your phone or tablet to listen along with a movie via streaming, video-on-demand, or DVD. The service currently offers descriptions for hit movies like the Hunger Games and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The company is working on providing descriptions for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Princess Bride. The list of offerings is pretty small right now, but has a lot of potential for growth.
Once you download the audio file, follow the verbal instructions for syncing the movie with the audio. If they get ahead of one another, pause the movie or mp3 file and let the one lagging behind catch up. This might get confusing. I hope that as Solo-Dx improves there will be smoother ways to keep the audio and video in sync.
I tried the Solo-Dx file for The Hunger Games. Since I still have some vision, and I’ve already seen the movie, as well as read the book, I listened to the mp3 track without the movie. It did a good job of describing the traits of the characters. If you are familiar with the Hunger Games, you’ll know that some of the characters are quite…eccentric.
I could also follow the scene set ups and sign messages. Katniss goes into the words and encounters a sign that warns about the high-voltage fence that separates the woods from District 12, for example. The narrator’s voice was fast-paced, but still fairly easy to understand. Now, keep in mind that is coming from the point of view of someone with a hearing loss. If I don’t have problems hearing it, then someone with normal hearing shouldn’t either.
Solo-Dx is offered on iTunes, Amazon and other major file download services, as well as on the official website. You can visit their website at www.solo-dx.com. The website is designed for accessibility and includes a set of FAQ’s for anyone who has questions about Solo-Dx.
I like where this service is going, and I look forward to see how it evolves in the future. Hopefully one day there will be no barriers for the blind when accessing entertainment. Get the word out there!