At 11, Kim was diagnosed with juvenile glaucoma. "As my vision loss progressed, my parents would have to describe what was happening," whispering at the movies. Angry theatergoers would tell them to hush. "We just stopped going to the movies altogether. That became something we just didn't do."
Learn about Perkins School for the Blind, where Kim directs the Braille & Talking Book Library.
The American Council of the Blind, which Kim serves as Vice President, is a strong supporter of media access advancesâ€”WGBH's among them. Learn more.
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[01:00:02:15] KIM: When I was growing up, I was I guess what you would call kind of a precocious child. I liked to read and I liked music. I really liked going to movies with my family.
I was sighted until I was age 11, when I was diagnosed with juvenile glaucoma, which is an eye condition that very gradually takes your vision away.
When I started to lose my vision, still we would go to the movies. It was something we did as a family.
[01:00:37:17] But as my vision-loss progressed, I couldn't tell what was happening on the screen, and so my parents would have to describe, and they'd whisper to me what was happening. It would often upset other theatre-goers who would hear whispering and they would tell my parents to hush up and not to talk. And we just stopped going to the movies altogether as a family, and that became something that we just didn't do.
[01:01:06:19] I grew up and I didn't really do movies. For a long time I just blocked it out and thought there just wasn't anything I could do anymore since I couldn't see.
When I moved to Massachusetts in 1985, I became connected with a lot of the organizations around the area, and one of them was WGBH. I was approached by WGBH to help test a new service called 'Descriptive Video Service'. They had a pilot test to see what the blind community would think. We got together as a group of about 25 people and watched a program.
[01:01:49:09] VO describing picture: A star explodes into a cloud of pink and purple gas. In the middle of the cloud, the word NOVA appears in black capital letters.
KIM: It was a NOVA program with description interspersed in the pauses of dialogue telling us what was happening. When the show was over, we all sat there totally silent. For about 10 seconds. Because we just couldn't believe that we had just sat through a television program, and we actually understood what had happened. Who would have thought that making television accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired was something that a major television station would even be interested in doing?
[01:02:27:23] The blindness community said to WGBH: "We love programming on television, its great, but what about the movies?"
They picked up the challenge. They've worked with all the motion picture studios to get movies accessible. The first movie that I went to see in a movie theatre was the movie 'Titanic'. It was really exciting for me because I got to go to the movies like everyone else, and I got to buy popcorn like everybody else. It was something that I hadn't done for over 30 years. Even though I can't see the screen, it's the same thing that everybody else is doing. It's a total experience. And 'Titanic' was such a big movie. I just loved every word that came through the headsets that told me what was happening.
[01:03:17:03] VO Descriptive voice: Jack's face grins beside hers as they soar over the waves on their solitary perch.
KIM: One of my favorite scenes was when Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were standing out on the prow of the ship, looking at the setting sun and the reflection on the water. I really lost myself in the whole movie experience, because I could understand it, I could follow the story, and it was really a major experience for me. I even sat at the end and I listened to every credit of that movie because it was described, and I could do it. I didn't have to say, well who played so-and-so? I actually went and saw 'Titanic' with description in the movie theatre three times.
[01:04:00:29] Since I went to 'Titanic' for the first time, audio description has grown tremendously, and now people who are blind and visually impaired all across the country have the whole experience of going to the movies. I can go with my friends and my family and my husband. And they don't have to tell me what's happening. Having access to television and movies again, which was something that I had enjoyed so much when I was younger, really brought back something that was missing in my life. It took 30 years for me to have that opportunity, but WGBH made it possible.