Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Emily's Oz and Blindness

I'm still laid up with the ghastly cold. It's been going around the schools here and I was hoping I wouldn't get it. I rarely get a cold. This one is making up for all those cold-free years. I've been moaning about this in every post I've been writing. I'm sure you're as sick of it as I am. 

It's Spring Break, Day 3. I also had the weekend. I haven't done any quilting! Now we all know that not quilting is commensurate with not breathing. 

Enough said. No more whiny "progress" reports!


Blind reading girl near the Grot stela monument



 I wanted to share something marvelous with you. As a short preface, which some of you might know, I teach blind and visually impaired students in public schools. I've been doing that for 26 years and I am always on the lookout for cool stuff about blind kids because it is so rare. But I found one a couple of weeks ago.

I don't know if you watched the Academy Awards; I know I didn't. I found out about a commercial that was sponsored by Comcast that showed the way a 7-yr-old blind girl sees the Wizard of Oz. 




Comcast, the cable provider, came up with a splendid idea to help their visually impaired and blind subscribers use a specialized remote to interact with the TV. According to Comcast, "[the] new talking guide that reads aloud titles and selections to help visually impaired and blind people surf through their TV guides, set digital video recordings and browse video-on-demand options." source 

Comcast held auditions for a blind child who would describe their favorite movie. Emily's descriptions were breathtaking. Comcast then went on to make Oz according to her descriptions. And that was broadcast on the Academy Awards.


On the Comcast site, they have a section completely dedicated to Emily's Oz. There is a documentary of how the commercial was made, "Meet Emily," how the set was made, and the characters were made. Every feature is worthwhile. It's a unique way to see inside one blind child's mind. You can see "Meet Emily" here.

I first heard of the commercial through a newspaper article in the Deseret News from Salt Lake City. Emily is from Utah and is Mormon. The article has an interview with her parents where they give insight into Emily's life and describe how Emily was chosen to make the commercial. You can read it here.

Not many people know about Descriptive Video (DV), where a video is shown in its entirety, but there is also a narration of people, scenery, and sounds. Currently, TV series that provide DV are growing. For example, Shark Tank, CSI and all its spinoffs, The Last Man on Earth, American Ninja Warrior, Law and Order SVU, Grimm, Sofia the First, Dora the Explorer plus many more. This page lists the series available and how to access them.

It may seem like I'm going on and on, but it's because the DV and Comcast's special remote have been a long day coming. I've watched Mary Poppins with DV and it was delightful.

I've taught a generation of blind and visually impaired children who didn't have this advantage. There is a ways to go. Everything on TV should have DV. Theaters should have earphones for blind and visually impaired patrons so they can hear DV.

Blindness and visual impairment are a very small part of society. Only 3% of the population (in the US) fall into that category. It takes time to move along any endeavor in the larger world because of that.

I hope you enjoy Emily's Oz as much as I did. All of the other videos surrounding Emily's Oz are extremely insightful.

Here are some other videos of blind children:




Four blind people at different phases of their lives 

Summer Camp for the Blind, Part One

Summer Camp for the Blind, Part Two

This last video has work done by one of my former blind students, Jimmy Cong. I taught him from preschool through fourth grade. He just graduated last year from high school. He is an amazing learner. During the last six years of school, he learned to play the guitar, play piano and worked with the Art Quest program at high school. There he learned how to make movies. He has very little residual vision, but he makes the most of what he has.

The video is from a story written by Jimmy, then edited by him and also the music was written and he played the piano in the closing credits.





If you have questions about the blind and visually impaired population in the US, please email me: quilting_nonnie@yahoo.com
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