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February 22, 2013 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for more information on "audio description" for a blind friend, in the US. It seems that many movies in the UK come on DVD with an audio description track, but not so many in the US. Need help sorting through all the information to help my US-based friend enjoy recent movies on DVD at home.

I understand that in the US, there is a proprietary term for Audio Description called DVS. I found a list of movies that have DVS, but not many of them are available for sale, and I'm not sure how frequently that list is updated.

Then, while searching, I found that Amazon UK actually has a entire subsection for Audio Description. From what I read on Wikipedia, Audio Description is the more generic term for this type of description (which also applies to other visual formats like plays). You can sort of surmise from that Wikipedia article that Audio Description is widely available in the UK but not so much in the US.

So, my question is, basically: how to get recentish movies to my friend in the US that she can enjoy at home, easily? Her husband is her primary caregiver and he has not watched any movies since she became blind in part because they are very busy but also because he does not want to watch movies without her. He would really like to see Argo and to have her be able to enjoy it at the same time. My friends are not young and tech-savvy, and I do not live near to them, so if it requires a lot of set up, that may be a pretty big stumbling block, but I will be happy for the information if nothing else.

Are there more movies easily buyable in the US that have audio description, and how can I find them? Additionally or alternatively, can I buy the UK movies and will they be viewable on a garden variety US DVD player? Can anyone describe how simple it is to get to the "Audio Description" track in these cases?

I'm sorry, but I'm confused on DVD formatting issues, among other things. My friends' DVD player is probably fairly old, maybe about 10 years? I don't know if their TV is HD, but I think it is not. If knowing more information about their current set up would be useful, I will happily follow up.

My friends learned about this feature through a local to them resource for the blind. The folks at the resource center also did not seem to know the hows/whys of audio description, even though they are all blind as well.

Please, any help and information would be very appreciated. Thanks, MeFi!
posted by freezer cake to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
PBS used to have an entire division devoted to DVS, and they promoted all their shows that used it. I think due to budget cuts the division has been closed, but you might be able to find remnants of it at their web site (plus, I'll bet a lot of their shows still have it).

If you have a new-ish TV, you can turn on or off DVS with the SAP feature, depending on whether the program being shown carries it. Again, you're more likely to find these shows on PBS.
posted by Melismata at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2013

I work in a public library that carries hundreds (thousands?) of the described audio DVDs. We deliever and pick them up to homebound customers. You might want to ask her local public library if they also offer that service.
posted by saucysault at 10:02 AM on February 22, 2013

Also, I don't know where they live, but a lot of major cities have at least one movie theater where you can get headsets with audio description (ours is in Woburn, MA).
posted by Melismata at 10:06 AM on February 22, 2013

Movies for the Blind posts audio description tracks for various movies as a downloadable podcast. Your friends might also contact the National Federation of the Blind or the affiliate chapter for their state to see what other resources would be available in terms of technology or services closer to them.
posted by goggie at 10:13 AM on February 22, 2013

My friend works for a company called Solo-Dx, which does exactly this. Basically, you buy an MP3 that provides the audio description and listen to at the same time as the movie. (I think you can sync it up so that it all works together smoothly.)The MP3s are cheap (99 cents), but it doesn't look like they have very many titles. There are probably other companies that do something similar, though -- maybe you'll have better luck searching for the audio description tracks separately from the DVDs?
posted by cider at 10:13 AM on February 22, 2013

The Blind Mice Mega Mall has a section called "Movie Vault" that has .mp3s of described movies and TV shows. It's only available to members, but membership is free. (I particularly liked the described version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.) It wouldn't have the audio component, but perhaps you could sync it up to the DVD?

If they should want to see a movie in theaters, Captionfish allows you to search for theaters with descripted video.
posted by shirobara at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the helpful information so far! Keep it coming. I feel a little stupid that I didn't notice the regional formatting information on the Amazon UK website. It looks like potentially if my friends get a BluRay player, that will be less of a problem. If anyone can comment on that and then if the Audio Description thing will be accessible easily, please do!
posted by freezer cake at 4:59 PM on February 22, 2013

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