In this post and video I want to talk about guide dogs and assistance dogs, in support of Guide Dogs Week (1st-9th October). They are amazing and beautiful animals who make such a huge difference to their owners, and they should be treated with the utmost respect, without any discrimination. I’ve also published an extended cut of the guide dog footage i’ve used in the video, which you can see by clicking here.
In this post and video I want to describe what audio description is, how it is useful for the blind and visually impaired, and why it’s high time we should be able to add it to Youtube videos. This is in support of the #AudioDescribeYT campaign, launched by James Rath.
A little while back I wrote a blog post about audio description for TV shows and films, and audio navigation on DVD menus. Things like that really help people who are visually impaired. But if you have partial or complete hearing loss, then that kind of feature isn’t much use. Instead, the equivalent form of assistance for such people is subtitles and captions, which display a text transcript of what people are saying and what sounds can be heard. And these also make a huge difference. And experimenting with it on Youtube has earned me a shoutout on a fellow blogger’s channel, which I’m very flattered about. If you’ve come here because of that video, which I’ll mention later, then hi! 🙂
Recently I wrote about audiobooks, including an overview of the RNIB Overdrive service, where you can download books for free from the RNIB’s Talking Book library. It’s a brilliant service with a huge number of titles to choose from, so it’s well worth checking out if you enjoy reading and listening to audiobooks. And in this post, I’m going to illustrate how we use it in my household, so you get a feel for how it works.
I’ve written previously about the importance of music and audio description, so I also want to post about the use of audio for books too. After all, books don’t just have to be printed on paper or displayed on a screen – a huge number of them have audio versions as well. They are particularly useful for visually impaired people of course, but sighted people can (and do) listen to them as well. I don’t personally use them very much – music, TV, films and the internet take up enough of my time where entertainment is concerned – but my mother listens to them a lot, and I do listen to one or two occasionally.
I’ve just received, and have happily started watching, Doctor Who Series 9 on Blu-ray. I’m drafting a separate review post of that as I go along, but coming from a visually impaired person’s perspective, I’m very pleased to see they’re continuing with audio navigation and audio description on the discs. Sherlock gets the same treatment as well.
It’s not a feature I personally need to use, but I do have friends who use it. And it’s understandably frustrating that such audio assistance isn’t more widespread.
I don’t have a guide dog, because I can see well enough not to need one. But I have many friends who do use them, and I would certainly consider applying for one if my sight ever deteriorated to a level where it might be useful. They are the most beautiful and amazing animals, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for them, and for those who train and use them. They aren’t just pets, they’re a real lifeline to their owners, enabling so much freedom and independence.
And yet, sadly, there are still people out there who don’t understand or respect guide dogs or the blind people who need them – something which has, yet again, become clear in the past few days.