a shelf with DVDs on it

Movie Night: Planning a Recreational Activity

This activity is designed to help students with visual impairments learn about options for watching accessible movies and television.

TV and movies are easily a favorite recreation choice for many young adults. Whether they prefer to have a movie night with friends or to curl up alone on the couch and binge watch Netflix all weekend, the majority of Americans enjoy using movies or TV as a way to relax. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired are no exception. It can be challenging to find shows or movies that do not rely heavily on visual information, or that have enough dialogue to keep a person with a vision impairment engaged and able to follow the events. However, there are a number of options that make television and movies more accessible for individuals with vision impairments, and these options have increased significantly in recent years. This activity is designed to help students learn about and utilize these options so that they can access them for their own leisure in the future. This is also an opportunity for students to build on their social and assistive technology skills.

This activity is ideal for a small group of 3-4 students with vision impairments, but the size of the group can vary, and the group should by no means be restricted only to visually impaired students.

  1. Organize an evening specifically dedicated to accessible TV or movies. Coordinate a group of students, or ask your student(s) to pick some friends to invite.
  2. Consider the options for audio described programs. Options include:

    • Netflix: Netflix has a fast-growing list of programs with audio description. The American Council of the Blind Audio Description Project keeps an up-to-date, alphabetized list of these titles.
    • iTunes: Several titles are available with audio description through the iTunes store. Learn how to search specifically for titles with audio description from this article.
    • DVD and Blue Ray: Many DVD films have audio description tracks available in their languages options. The American Council of the Blind keeps an up-to-date list.
  3. Choose one venue for the students to explore and encourage the group to decide on one or more programs. The group can work together to research the information and read through the lists using their technology skills. Alternatively, present the group with a few choices of films or television programs and allow them to choose from those options. The group can work together to come to a decision about what to watch.
  4. This is an opportunity to explore the many ways to access movies with audio description. How do you download and watch a movie from iTunes? What is the most accessible way to stream a Netflix program? A movie night can be a fun way to explore some of the options and technologies available (e.g. streaming programs on a tablet or computer, using Apple TV, using a DVD player).
  5. To prepare for the evening, students can coordinate to bring snacks to share. This is another way for them to interact and organize with others. and build social skills

For a community activity, try a movie night out at a theater. Many, but not all, movie theaters offer audio description. Students can call theaters in their communities to learn about their accessibility options. At the theater, students can learn about using the audio description headsets, about purchasing tickets, and of course, about how to get a big tub of popcorn. A movie theater is also a very different sensory experience from watching a film at home. This can be overwhelming for some students who struggle with loud noises, but for others this is an environment rife with sounds and smells to observe and explore.

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