In 2019, there was a social media trend flooding my timeline called the Bird Box Challenge (#BirdBoxChallenge). The concept of the challenge is that a person is supposed to blindfold themselves and then complete everyday activities such as walking, doing chores, and navigating their community, amongst other tasks. The challenge gets its name from the movie Bird Box, which is about a group of people who wear blindfolds to avoid being killed by a monster of some sort- admittedly, I haven’t seen the movie yet.
Needless to say, the Bird Box Challenge can be very dangerous for people that do not have proper orientation and mobility skills. While there have been no reported injuries that I know of, Netflix has issued a warning to people about the challenge, encouraging them to avoid hurting themselves. Many people within the blind/low vision community have condemned the challenge, saying it perpetuates harmful stereotypes about blindness, low vision, and vision loss in general.
People do not need to fall down a flight of stairs or run into a wall in order to understand what life would be like without vision. However, there are still alternatives to the Bird Box Challenge that allow for people to learn more about vision loss without injuring themselves. Here are 12 safe Bird Box Challenge alternatives that simulate life with blindness and low vision in a positive way- and that’s approved by people living with vision loss!
These challenges require a blindfold or another way to cover your eyes for best results.
Use a screen reader to navigate your phone, tablet, or computer
How do blind people use a phone or computer? They use a screen reader or text-to-speech software that reads all of the information on their device’s screen. Information is read out loud and in real time so that a blind or low vision user can interact with their device.
For people wondering how they would use their computer or phone with the Bird Box Challenge, they can try turning on the screen reader for their phone, tablet, or computer. To enable the built-in screen reader for your device, follow these instructions:
- Go to your device settings
- Go to the general settings section and click on accessibility
- Set Voiceover to “on”
- Go to your device settings
- Go to the accessibility menu
- Choose either Select-to-Speak or TalkBack. Select-to-speak will read information when activated, while TalkBack is constantly on
- Press the control key, windows key, and the N key all at once
- Turn on Narrator
- Press the command key and the F5 key
- Turn VoiceOver on
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Android Phones
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Windows 10
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For MacBooks
- How To Use VoiceOver For Beginners
Learn the basics of Braille
Braille is a code that transcribes letters into tactile dots for over 100 different languages. People who are curious about how blind people read can practice by learning the basics of braille. There are several online resources for learning more about braille, but the best way to practice is by blindfolding yourself and learning to read different written materials- this prevents people from learning to read braille with their eyes.
- Fun facts about Braille for World Braille Day 2019
- How To Be An Ally For Braille Users: World Braille Day 2021
- Websites That Teach Kids About Low Vision and Assistive Technology
Walk with a human guide the correct way
I know it’s tempting to walk down the stairs blindfolded without assistance, but this can very easily lead to injury. Instead, practice navigating familiar areas with a human guide that can act as your eyes. Hold onto their arm and listen to your surroundings as you try to navigate different areas. Learn more about being a human guide in a later section of this post.
Have a blindfolded dinner party
Since there are lots of risks involved with cooking while blindfolded, I can’t recommend engaging in that activity- though there are many strategies for “cooking without looking” that are out there. I recommend having a blindfolded dinner party, which can be an interesting way to rely on other senses for enjoying new or familiar recipes. Put your favorite foods on a plate and then close your eyes to eat, noting all of the different flavors and textures- a charcuterie board works great for this. There are lots of positive videos about blind taste tests on YouTube, which I will link below for inspiration.
- Best tastes for a blind person- Tommy Edison
- Blind taste test- Christine Ha
- Going to dinner in total darkness- Molly Burke
Watch a movie or TV show with audio description
How do blind people watch movies? Audio description, sometimes referred to as descriptive audio or described video, is an additional narrator track that provides visual information for people who otherwise would not be able to see it. Audio description may be provided live by a narrator or pre-recorded ahead of time. There are lots of different audio described movies and TV shows available on streaming media services- even Bird Box has audio description!
To find movies and TV shows with audio description, search for titles that have audio description in English (or your preferred language). Once the video begins, go to the “audio and subtitles” section and check the option for audio description under audio settings. A narrated track will describe visual information between natural pauses in dialog.
- Fast Facts About Audio Description
- Tips for Going To Movie Theaters With Low Vision
- Tips For Passing Time On Flights With Low Vision
- Using GalaPro Audio Description at Chicago
- Audio Description Archives | Veronica With Four Eyes (veroniiiica.com)
Put together outfits without looking
Another entertaining Bird Box Challenge alternative would be to put together outfits without looking. Find out if you can figure out what a garment looks like based on touch, and arrange different outfits. This would be a really fun group activity.
How do blind people get dressed in real life though? Many people use assistive technology such as color readers and tactile labels in order to identify clothing. While there are some people with vision impairments that purposely buy monochromatic clothing, there are many people who embrace wearing color and creating beautiful outfits with interesting fabrics, textures, and jewelry. I’m personally a fan of using the Stylebook app on my iPad to put together outfits.
- Getting Dressed With Assistive Technology For Vision Loss
- How I Use The Stylebook App With Low Vision
- Choosing Jewelry With Chronic Pain
- Organizing A Bedroom Closet For Vision Loss
These Bird Box Challenge alternatives do not require a blindfold and focus more on vision impairment education.
Learn about the colors and tips of blindness canes
Did you know that not all blindness canes look alike? It’s true. Most people assume that all blind people use the NFB straight white cane with a metal tip. I use an Ambutech cane that collapses into four segments and rolls on the ground. There are special canes for people that are deafblind, for walking in the snow, and for learning to use a cane. An interesting way to connect back to the movie would be to ask yourself which canes would work best for the characters.
- Decoding The Tips of Blindness Canes
- Decoding The Colors of Blindness Canes
- How To Order Custom Colors for Blindness Canes
Create images that simulate vision impairment
Did you know that many people who identify as blind or vision impaired have some usable vision? A great way to simulate visual impairment is to edit images that show what a person with vision loss sees. I created a tutorial for how to simulate several common vision impairments with the free PicsArt app.
- Using PicsArt To Simulate Low Vision
- How I Respond To Questions/Comments About My Glasses
- Learning To Explain Usable Vision
Help people with vision impairments using Be My Eyes
Ever wonder how blind people actually complete everyday tasks? Sign up to be a volunteer for Be My Eyes, an app that connects blind and low vision users with sighted volunteers. This is a great way to give back to the community and learn more about vision loss.
That being said, the service is anonymous and is based on the assumption that volunteers will be honest and respectful. Don’t ask people what their vision is like or other prodding questions- just assist with the task at hand.
Use Seeing AI as a virtual assistant
Remember how I mentioned that many blind people use a color reader? Seeing AI is a free iOS app from Microsoft that has many functions to assist people with vision loss, including a color reader, short text reader, and scene description technology. Seeing AI uses machine learning to help people with every day tasks, and it’s a great introduction to the amazing world of assistive technology.
For Android devices, Google Lookout and Google Lens can provide similar functionality and use AI to provide assistance.
- Microsoft Seeing AI And Low Vision Review
- Recognizing Images With Seeing AI
- Google Lookout App For Low Vision
- How I Use Google Assistant While Traveling
Learn to act as a human guide
As mentioned previously, it’s important to know how to guide someone without hurting them. This includes being able to identify obstacles, using specific language when describing location, and allowing them to hold onto their arm. Never grab onto a person’s arm without their permission, especially when you’re in public.
- How To Be An Effective Human Guide For People With Vision Loss
- How Do People With Visual Impairments Guide Each Other?
- How To Approach Someone with Low Vision Without Scaring Them
Create your own audio descriptions
For more creative minds, another Bird Box Challenge alternative can be creating your own audio descriptions for YouTube videos. This allows users to practice describing people, places, and things, as well as reading text. YouDescribe is a free website from the Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute that gives users all the tools they need to start describing videos and to receive feedback on their descriptions
- How To Create Audio Description For YouTube With YouDescribe
- Creating Audio Description For Dance Tutorials With YouDescribe
- Creating Audio Description For Science Experiments With YouDescribe
- Creating Audio Description for Music Videos With YouDescribe
More ideas for alternatives to the Bird Box Challenge
- How Students Can Celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day
- How To Be An Ally For Braille Users: World Braille Day 2021
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
- Ways To Support New Accessibility Advocates