Theaters & Vision Loss
Published – October, 2014
My wife has macular degeneration and is having difficulty with her vision. We used to go to live theater and movies but she can not see well enough to enjoy the performances any more. We tried going to one recently. I sat next to her, whispering what she was missing, but it disturber the other patrons so we left. Someone told me that she may have rights under the ADA and there might be some equipment that can help her. Is that true?
Signed…Missing the Show
Your friend is exactly right. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people who have “a significant limitation to one or more major life activities”. Being able to see is definitely a major life activity, so she is covered by the law. And there is assistance available for her. A relatively new service is called “Audio Description”. A person who has difficulty with vision is loaned a receiver (about the size of a cigarette pack) with a small earpiece that goes in or over one ear. She puts it on, turns on the receiver, and hears a narrative of what she’s missing on the stage during the performance. The Audio Describer begins speaking about 12-15 minutes prior to the beginning of the show by giving some information about the characters, costumes and sets that will be used in the first Act. Then, when the show begins, the Audio Describer does not talk during dialogue or important songs, so the patron gets a full experience. Actually, a patron doesn’t have to have a vision loss in order to borrow a receiver. Many time people use the receiver to add to the enjoyment of the performance. In Charlotte, all Broadway Light Series performances are audio described on the Sunday matinee of the show. You can find a list of those shows, the theaters, and the dates/times of the performances at www.disability-rights.org/?page_id=544. Shows in other theaters can be described upon request.
Some movie theaters also offer audio described movies. If you want information about that, or anything related to the ADA, please contact us at 704-537-0550 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.