Insight March 2016

3/29/2016

Blind on the big screen

10 movies that put blindness front and centre

Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy movies. And just like anyone else, you want to relate to the characters on screen. So it can be refreshing to catch a movie where blind characters are put front and centre. And that’s what the following 10 films have in common.

What do you think of these movies? Do they do a good job of portraying blind characters? Let us know at insight@cnib.ca

  1. Going Blind, 2010 Going Blind movie poster. Image of woman standing with her guide dog.

  2. The tagline for this critically acclaimed 2010 documentary is “coming out of the dark about vision loss”, and that’s exactly what “Going Blind” is all about. In it, filmmaker Joseph F. Scott takes audiences behind the scenes through his own journey of vision loss caused by glaucoma, as well as the stories of six other people from all walks of life who are also living with some degree of blindness. Refreshingly, the film portrays vision loss not as an end of someone’s life, but as a new perspective – and a new beginning.

    How to find it:
    Watch the “Going Blind” trailer on YouTube. (Please note: This video is not described.) If you want to watch the entire film, you can stream it online in either described or undescribed format for $4.99.

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  3. The White Countess, 2005  The White Countess movie poster. Image of woman smiling next to blind man.

  4. Set in 1930s Shanghai, this romantic drama tells the story of a former U.S. official (played by Ralph Fiennes) who loses his vision in a terrorist attack before relocating to China. There, he meets a down-and-out countess (played by Natasha Richardson), and opens an elegant night club in her honour  as the pair fall in love. (Rated PG-13)

    How to find it:
    Watch the trailer for “The White Countess” on YouTube. You can also rent the movie on YouTube for $10.99 or buy it through iTunes for $14.99. (Please note: The videos found through these links are not described.) 

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  5. At First Sight, 1999 At First Sight movie poster. Image of man and woman embracing.

  6. Inspired by real events, “At First Sight” tells the story of a congenitally blind man (played by Val Kilmer) who has an operation to regain his sight after the encouragement of his girlfriend (played by Mira Sorvino). But in his new visual world, the man wrestles with making sense of the images he sees around him, and begins to question whether or not the operation was a mistake. (Rated PG-13)   

    How to find it:
    Watch the trailer for “At First Sight” on YouTube. If you want to see the whole movie, you can also buy the DVD through amazon.ca. (Please note: The videos found through these links are not described.) 

  7. Daredevil, 2003Daredevil movie poster. Image of Daredevil superhero standing in rain, surrounded by other heroes and villains.

  8. In this star-studded action movie from the Marvel superhero franchise, a blind lawyer (played by Ben Affleck) takes on the villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York, as a crime-fighting vigilante super hero called “Daredevil”. (Rated PG-13) Incidentally, if you liked the movie, you might also want to check out the critically acclaimed TV version, which is available on Netflix in described video.

    How to find it:
    Watch the Daredevil trailer on YouTube. If you want to see the whole movie, you can also rent it on YouTube for $3.99. (Please note: The videos found through these links are not described.)    

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  9. Blindsight, 2006 Blindsight movie poster. Image of person standing on a rock, arms outstretched, surrounded by snow and mountains.

  10. This critically acclaimed documentary follows the incredible journey of six blind Tibetan teenagers who take on the greatest adventure of their young lives: climbing the 23,000-foot Lhakpa Ri peak of Mount Everest. The teens are led by renowned blind mountain climber Eric Weihenmayer who helps them find their footing (both literally and figuratively) on a treacherous mountaintop, and within a society that underestimates their abilities. (Rated PG)

    How to find it:
    Watch the “Blindsight” trailer on YouTube. If you want to see the whole movie, you can rent it through iTunes for $3.99 or buy it through iTunes for $9.99. (Please note: The videos found through these links are not described.)    

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  11. The Eyes of Me, 2009The Eyes of Me movie poster. Illustrated image of four blind teens, alongside braille image of the title, The Eyes of Me.

  12. This PBS documentary follows a year in the lives of four blind and partially sighted teens as they navigate the ups and downs of adolescence at a Texas high school for blind students. Interspersing real footage with beautiful stylized animation, the film depicts not only the unique challenges of growing up blind (like learning to cross an intersection without sight), but also the everyday struggles that all kids face – like dating, making friends and preparing for college. (Unrated but contains some course language.)

    How to find it:
    Watch the trailer for “The Eyes of Me” on YouTube. If you want to see the whole thing, you can also buy the DVD on amazon.ca

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  13. A Patch of Blue, 1965 A Patch of Blue movie poster. Image of woman smiling with her hand touching a tree.

  14. “A Patch of Blue” is a critically acclaimed drama released in 1965 that follows the blossoming relationship between a blind teenager (played by Elizabeth Hartman) and a black man (played by Sidney Poitier). This groundbreaking movie dealt with issues of race, disability, prejudice, social stigma, abuse, addiction and the triumphing idea that, through all this, love really is blind. (Unrated)   

    How to find it:
    Watch the trailer for “A Patch of Blue” on YouTube. If you want to see the whole movie, you can also rent it on YouTube for $3.99. (Please note: The videos found through these links are not described.)    

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  15. Scent of a Woman, 1992 Scent of a Woman movie poster. Image of older blind man walking with white cane next to younger sighted man.

  16. This hit drama earned Al Pacino an Oscar for his role as Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, a cantankerous army veteran who lost his sight years earlier in battle. After being assigned a naïve prep school student named Charlie Simms (played by Chris O’Donnell) as his caregiver over Thanksgiving weekend, Slade convinces Simms to take him to New York City for what he thought would be the last great weekend of his life. (Rated R)

    How to find it:
    Watch the trailer for “Scent of a Woman” on YouTube. If you want to see the whole thing, you can also rent it through YouTube for $3.99, or you can rent or buy it through iTunes. (Please note: The videos found through these links are not described.)

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  17. Imagine, 2012Imagine movie poster. Image of blind woman being led by blind man while walking.

  18. “Imagine” is set at a restrictive school for the blind in Portugal where children are taught to stay in their comfort zones, stay insulated and stay clear of the dangers in the world around them. But that all changes when a new teacher comes to the school – a man who is blind himself, and teaches the students to hear, touch and imagine the world around them, and to start truly living. (Unrated)   

    How to find it:
    Watch the trailer for “Imagine” on YouTube. (Please note: This video is not described.) 

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  19. Ice Castles, 2010

  20. Ice Castles 2010 movie poster. Image of teenage boy and girl, wearing skates and embracing. Especially appropriate for teen viewers, “Ice Castles” is a heartwarming romantic drama that was originally released in 1978, but relaunched to a new generation of audiences in 2010. The movie tells the story of Alexis Winston, a teenaged figure skater who dreams of becoming a world-class skating champion. But after losing her sight in an accident, Alexis’ figure skating dreams suddenly seem impossible to reach. It’s only through a lot of determination, and the love of her boyfriend, that she learns she can still strive for greatness on the ice. (Rated PG)    

    How to find it:
    Watch the trailer for “Ice Castles” on YouTube. If you want to see the whole thing, you can rent it on YouTube for $3.99 or you can rent or buy it on through iTunes. (Please note: The videos found through these links are not described.)    

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What about described video?
We believe that every new movie should be made available in described video, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case. In fact, while we were putting this article together, we were surprised to see how few of these movies were available for blind people to enjoy in described video, even though they prominently feature blind characters.

Hopefully one day every single movie and TV show will be released in described format. Until then, here are a few websites where you can find described video:

  • AMI TV is a Canadian TV channel featuring 100% accessible content, including a fair amount of described movies. To order AMI, call your cable provider.   
  • Samnet is an online community from Serotek that gives users access to a wide range of accessible digital content, including blogs, podcasts and described movies.  
  • Netflix offers a pretty solid selection of movies, documentaries and TV shows in described video.
  • CELA (Centre for Equitable Library Access) offers a range of described videos to borrow if you’re a member.
  • Zagga Entertainment isn’t up and running just yet, but when it gets off the ground, Zagga will be a fully accessible video-on-demand service featuring movies and TV shows only in described format.

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Finally, an affordable braille display!

Image of the Orbit Braille ReaderRefreshable braille displays are amazing devices that can revolutionize reading and writing for people who are blind. But they’re definitely not cheap. Most braille displays cost around $3,000, and that puts them out of financial reach for a lot of people not only here in Canada – but in developing countries worldwide.

That’s why CNIB was so thrilled to help officially launch a new affordable braille display, called the Orbit braille reader, last week at the Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego, California.

At a price point of under $400, the Orbit is the most inexpensive product of its kind on the market.

"In some countries there is little to no level of braille access," says Diane Bergeron, Executive Director of Strategic Relations and Engagement at CNIB. "Several international organizations for the blind, including CNIB, understood the real need for a braille display at a reduced cost. So we worked together to develop a device for a fraction of the cost of current models."

CNIB is one of ten organizations worldwide who were involved in creating the new technology, along with the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) in England, NFB (National Federation of the Blind) in the United States, American Printing House for the Blind, New Zealand's Blind Foundation, Perkins, the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, Association Valentin HauY (AVH), Sightsavers, and Vision Australia. CNIB provided research and development funding, expertise and testing.

The Orbit reader has the potential to make a tremendous impact in developing countries, where access to braille can be severely limited due to cost. It will also provide an affordable option for people right here at home, including students who are learning braille. And with 32 gigs of memory, students will be able to upload all their textbooks onto this one portable device.

The Orbit reader isn’t available for purchase yet, but it will be soon! The product will be sold in Canada through Shop CNIB. Stay tuned to find out when it’ll arrive in a Shop CNIB store near you.

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5 solutions for everyday vision loss problems

If you’ve recently lost some or all of your sight, you might not realize how many simple solutions there are for everyday challenges that come along with vision loss. Try these five simple techniques…  

  • Problem 1: Trouble finding the buttons on a microwave

  • Image of tactile bump-on dotsSolution: Mark the buttons on your microwave with tactile dots. Using simple Bump-On Dots, you can mark four important buttons that will help you navigate the rest of the keypad. Those buttons are the 5, Stop, Start and Reset/Clear buttons. Start by placing a tactile dot on the 5 button (which is the middle of the keypad), so you can find all the other numbers based on where they are in proximity to the 5. Then place different tactile dots on the Stop, Start and Reset/Clear buttons so you can get to know each of them by feel.

    Need more help? Click here to find some handy how-to videos on marking your microwave and stove.

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  • Problem 2: Trouble organizing and picking out clothes

  • Image of a closet full of clothes on hangersSolution: Avoid mismatching your clothes while staying organized by adding dividers to drawers to help separate your sweaters, shirts, scarves, etc. If you’re unsure of what pieces look good together, ask a sighted friend to help you pick out a few outfits. Then pair the individual pieces of clothing together and place them in the closet on one hanger. Add a tactile sticker to the hanger so you now can determine if the outfit is best for work, a night out with friends or a family outing.

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  • Problem 3: Difficulty identifying and organizing money

  • Image of hands folding a billSolution: There are a few different ways to more easily identify and organize your hard-earned cash. One of them is to use the size and texture of a coin’s edge to identify what it is. While quarters and dimes are rough all around the edges, nickels are very smooth. The toonie is the largest coin and has a smooth-rough pattern around its edge, while a loonie has an 11-sided curve with constant lengths. You can also fold bills in different ways depending on the denomination, and place them in different parts of your wallet. For example, leave a $10 bill unfolded, while you fold a $20 lengthwise, a $5 widthwise, and so on.

    Need a bit more help with identifying and organizing money? Click here to browse our video series on managing money with vision loss.

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  • Problem 4: Overflowing cups when pouring liquids

  • Image of a liquid level indicator Solution: Use a liquid level indicator and you’ll never overfill your drinking glass again. This handy product can be found at our own Shop CNIB store. All you do is hang the liquid level indicator over the side of the glass or whatever vessel you’re pouring the liquid into. Then go ahead and start pouring. When the liquid reaches half an inch from the top of the glass, a buzzer will sound to let you know it’s almost full.

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  • Problem 5: Trouble keeping neat while eating

  • Image of a plate of food with cutlery and a drinking glassSolution: Whether you’re eating at home or out at a restaurant, there are a couple of simple techniques you can use to find your way around your place setting. First, you can start at the edge of the table, with your fingers curled and arms flexed, slowly move your hands towards the centre of the table until you find your plate. Next, extend your arms, with your hands low to the table, gently moving them to the right and left until you locate your utensils, glass, etc. When you want a sip of your beverage, keep your hands low and in contact with the table to avoid knocking over your glass. When you’re putting down your drink, use your free hand to make sure the area is clear before lowering the glass to avoid spillage.

    Need a few more pointers? Check out our handy “Mealtime Tips” videos!

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“Wow!” of the month

Hiker Dan Berlin finishes the Inca Trail in 13 hours!

Dan Berlin and three fellow hikers smile while standing atop the Inca TrailEvery so often, you hear about someone who makes you say “wow!” Maybe because they’re an inventor, or a prodigy, or a global adventurer – or maybe just because they’re a great parent, friend or spouse…

This month’s “wow!” comes from 45-year-old Dan Berlin, who hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru last October in just 13 hours. The most remarkable thing isn't that the hike normally takes four days to complete – it's that Dan became the first blind person to accomplish the trek in one day.

Dan, who lives in Colorado, gradually started losing his vision to cone-rod dystrophy in his 30s. Dan had to create a new way to approach the rest of his life and decided – despite losing his sight – to become a marathoner.

“Being blind threw me into a world with a much less defined map on the 'correct' way to live in our culture," says Dan. "I became free of my own self-imposed limitations on an acceptable way to be successful in life.”

Dan Berlin and teammates on the hiking trailHiking the 26-mile Inca Trail is a major test of athletic and mental strength. Dan completed the task with the help of Intrepid Travel and his adventure group, Team See Possibilities. The team consists of cyclist and adventurer, Charles Scott, entrepreneur, Alison Qualter Berna and ultra- marathoner, Brad Graff.

Intrepid Travel arranged for Dan to complete the route in one day, ascending to 4,200 metres above sea level over uneven terrain, surrounded by Andean peaks.

“Dan has served as an amazing inspiration," says Leigh Barnes, from Intrepid Travel.

Dan also ran to raise money for the Blind Institute of Technology in Denver, an organization that helps people with vision loss find success in the workplace.  

“We are excited to continue to work with Dan to inspire other travellers to overcome their perceived limitations,” says Leigh.

Machu Picchu isn't the first extreme adventure for Dan and Team See Possibilities. Last year the crew also hiked the Grand Canyon, as well as competed in nine marathons and completed two Half Ironman triathlons together. 

“I am motivated by the ability to encourage people, both disabled and not, to challenge themselves in living a fulfilling life," says Dan. "I love the personal physical challenge and the ability to work together as a team to tackle huge physical endeavors.”

Are you wowed yet?  We are.

Want to have your own “wow!” adventure like Dan did? Why not join Team CNIB by taking on an athletic challenge and fundraising for CNIB at the same time! Visit cnib.ca/teamcnib to learn more.

*The above photos, featuring Dan Berlin and Team See Possibilities, have been provided by Intrepid Travel


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