It may move at glacier speed, but more and more the needs of people with disabilities are being addressed in our society in ways both large and small. The latest to catch my eye involves
the simple but universal act of enjoying a night at the movie theater. In the Philadelphia area, and, I imagine, in many areas around the country, movie theaters are now offering small devices that discreetly display captions to the individual moviegoer. Some theaters offer eyeglasses that display captions across the bottom of the inside surface of the lens so that only the wearer can see them. Others provide little screens mounted on the end of flexible arms that are positioned in the moviegoer's cupholder. While there are still occasional glitches in the accuracy of the transcriptions, this is a wonderful step forward in helping people with hearing impairments (like me) follow the dialogue and more fully enjoy the movie.
Theaters are also installing devices that aid those with visual impairments as well. In many theaters, moviegoers can wear an audio headset that includes both the regular movie dialogue as well as the voice of a narrator who describes the action on the screen, for example, whether they are driving a car, eating a meal, or even smiling or frowning.
At the Unitarian Universalist Association, we are constantly looking for ways to use existing technology to aid Unitarian Universalists with hearing and vision problems. For two years now, we have offered audio versions of UU World. We are exploring ways of better utilizing closed captions on various YouTube and other videos. We are also investigating ways of making printed materials available to people with "print disabilities" via audio books, screen reader software and braille. Resources are available to congregations who want to enhance the sound capacity in their buildings via headsets or loop system.
Whether its watching a movie, attending a worship service or enjoying a good book, everyone deserves the right to full access. We in the UUA, as in the general society, are getting there. Bear with us and thanks for your patience.
Growth Consultant, Central East Regional Group and UUA Liaison to Equual Access