Back in tenth grade, my favorite way to spend time with my friends was to go to the movie theater at the local mall. Even though I had a sensitivity to flashing lights, quick camera movement, and couldn’t always see the screen very clearly, I never really missed out on anything that was going on in the film. Here are some tools and tips I have for watching movies in theaters.
Descriptive audio devices
Free of charge to use, the descriptive audio devices are loaded with a description of what is going on in a scene and also warns viewers of flashing light sequences or fast movement about five seconds before it occurs on screen, and also announces when the sequence ends. With this device, I was able to watch Captain America: Civil War the night it premiered. At most movie theaters, the device can be requested at the ticket purchase window. One important thing to note is that some movie theaters require you sign your name and give your address when you borrow one of these devices, and the form to sign it out often isn’t in large print. This information is just to make sure you don’t walk off with the device.
Also, anyone who charges for the use of these devices, or refuses to provide them, is breaking the law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title III, Section VI.
Online flashing lights guides
I have had great luck finding out if a movie has lots of flashing lights in it simply by googling the name of the movie along with any of these phrases:
- flashing lights
- strobe lights
- migraine triggers
- trigger warning
I don’t use any specific website for this, rather just rely on whatever comes up in Google. Often times, these guides will have scene markers and specific lines of dialogue to let the viewer know when the lights start.
Where to sit?
No need to sit in the very first row of the theater. I found that sitting towards the middle or back in the center is best. Because the stairs can be very awkward, I have a friend act as a human guide walking slightly in front of me while holding my hand, and I use my cane as well.
Yes, I am one of those people who asks a lot of questions during a movie, even when using descriptive audio. Having a human guide is extremely helpful because they are able to tell me who is on the screen or what just happened in a movie if I ask. When I saw the movie Birdman with my brother, I found that the descriptive audio was still very confusing, so having someone there to answer my questions was extremely helpful.
I have a friend who is very sensitive to loud noises, especially low pitched ones. In order to help with this, they wear ear plugs or earphones that are unplugged during the film to help cancel out some of the noise. If using a descriptive audio device, moving the headphones slightly out of the headphone jack will create white noise in the form of static that may drown out more intense noises like explosions or loud music.
Dealing with strangers
There will always be strangers who are curious as to how or why someone with low vision goes to a movie theater. Remember that you have the right not to answer their questions, and can simply ignore them. If you choose to answer some of these common questions, I have written my typical responses below.
Are you totally blind? Nope, I have low vision.
Are you able to see the screen? Mostly, that’s why I use descriptive audio.
What’s descriptive audio? It describes what is on the screen for me, like who is moving around, what is going on in the background, and who is talking.
Did you get a discount? Nope, I paid the same price you did.
What’s the point of watching a movie if you can’t see it? I can listen to it and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.
Look at that blind girl! Usually a comment from well-meaning parents of little kids, I usually just ignore it.
Do you have (insert disease here)? Unless they guess what conditions I have correctly, which someone is yet to do, I just answer no and move away as quickly as possible.