Finding Destiny

Inspired by this question- when is the first time you saw your disability in the media? #FirstTimeISawMe

Last summer, my family and I decided to go see the movie Finding Dory. We were visiting a medical center, and it had been a pretty discouraging trip, so we were hoping the movie would take our mind off of things (read more about going to movie theaters with low vision here). What we didn’t expect was to encounter a character that was exactly like me…well, if I was a whale shark.

Finding Dory is the story of how Dory, a blue tang with short term memory loss, goes on a journey to be reunited with her parents. While searching for her parents, she makes many new friends along the way, one of them being Destiny, a whale shark who lives in captivity due to poor eyesight. Dory and Destiny were friends when they were younger, and communicated through the pipes in their respective aquariums. It is unknown if Dory knew Destiny had poor eyesight prior to them meeting face-to-face. However, Dory never makes fun of Destiny’s poor eyesight, and none of the other characters do either. It seems normal to them- likely because whale sharks in the wild also have poor eyesight.

Destiny frequently bumps into walls and glass, something I can heavily relate to, having limited peripheral vision and no depth perception.  In order to help her navigate, she has a friend named Bailey, a beluga whale, who reminds me of my many friends who act as my human guides (read more about human guides here). Bailey tries to warn Destiny of obstacles, though he doesn’t always prevent her from swimming into them. The movie portrays Destiny swimming into obstacles in a comical way, though my family and I were probably laughing the loudest out of anyone in the theater because it was so relatable. It’s worth noting I am not one to normally get offended over comedic portrayals of low vision and blindness.

I really appreciated that Disney/Pixar created a character that could still stand on their own, even if their disability was removed. Too many times, characters in media are portrayed as simply a disability, and are a static character without it. Destiny helps Dory tremendously by showing her kindness, and helps her to achieve her goals throughout the movie. She’s not just swimming into walls over and over again- she’s keeping up with Dory and is eager to help. I also appreciated that characters used words like “see” and “look,” and that these words weren’t avoided because of Destiny’s eyesight- read more on why these words aren’t offensive here.

I wish Destiny had appeared in Finding Nemo, because she is the exact character I needed when I was younger. This is one of the first characters I ever encountered with low vision, not blindness, so I was able to easily see myself in her- and so could many of my friends, as they all texted me after they saw the movie saying “loved you in Finding Dory.” When I was asked what Disney character I related to the most, I was able to answer without hesitation that it was Destiny, because of her positive attitude, even with her terrible eyesight. I’d never seen another character I could relate so much to.

So, thank you Disney/Pixar, for allowing me to see a character just like myself on the big screen of a movie theater, something I’d been waiting for, for 19 years. I hope that there continues to be representation of the blindness and low vision community, as well as the disability community as a whole, in future movies, TV shows, books, etc. And if there happens to be a spin-off all about Destiny, I will be the first in line to watch it.

How Do People With Low Vision…Go to the Movies?

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
  • epilepsy
  • 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.

Asking questions

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.

Sound sensitivity

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.


Hopefully with these tips, your next movie outing will go smoothly and you’ll be able to enjoy the film!