Describing Tragedy: The Information Access Needs of Blind People in Emergency-Related Circumstances

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Audio description is a technique used for "translating" visual material to aural readers/blind people. In this article, exploratory research on audio description (AD) is presented, which raises important questions in the field of applied anthropology and emergency planning: How does one translate visual material for a non-seeing audience? From the point of view of blind consumers, what constitutes "good" description? What specific information access needs do they have in event of emergencies? Selected results are presented from three telephone focus groups on AD, conducted with 39 blind or visually impaired people nationwide in the United States during September/October 2005. This paper addresses emergency planning, audio description, and the need for more accurate information access for blind people during public warning broadcasts and in delivering the news. Further, it examines existing guidelines for the inclusion of blind people in the provision of emergency information and concludes that successful emergency preparedness must include first-hand expertise of disabled people themselves.



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