Watching the Masters snooker and listening through ear buds was very satisfactory. At one point I left the room, and at first I was still able to follow the play, be it with sound and no picture.
But soon I was lost - the commentators didn’t paint a picture even at the vital moments. I know it’s television and a programme is to be watched, but many thousands of men and women do depend on television, even though they are unable to see the picture clearly because of sight impairment - just a few anchor words, a reminder of who’s at the table and why the audience is clapping would help.
No-one wants commentators rabbiting on but try ‘watching’ with your eyes closed and you’ll see what I mean. I contacted the Royal National Institute for the Blind and spoke to the man who is trying to get audio description organised for as many television programmes as possible, especially sport.
Fans at live football matches can use headsets or an app on a smartphone to hear a detailed commentary, painting a picture so it all makes sense in the mind’s eye and gives an enjoyable visit.
He said television commentators just make comments on what we can see anyway - compare that with the radio commentators who are our eyes, a skill enjoyed by two Belfast men: Alan Green, said to be one of the 16 greatest British football commentators of all time; and Jim Neilly who, whether it’s rugby or boxing, is as knowledgeable as he is exciting.
“I hope that I have brought the games to life down the years,” he reflected.
“And made people enjoy them even more than they would normally.”
Seeing - or hearing - Ronnie O’Sullivan play against Ali Carter was something of a game of cat and mouse until his brutal crushing in the last couple of frames. But what an unpleasant man - and that’s putting it mildly...
Fans at live football matches can use headsets or an app on a smartphone to hear a detailed commentary, painting a picture so it all makes sense in the mind’s eye and gives an enjoyable visit
I think O’Sullivan has lost a lot of support despite the fact that apparently he suffers from depression and has mental health issues; it’s not acceptable to behave in such a manner in front of audiences both in the snooker hall and at home where children are watching and taking note of how a role model behaves.
We saw it unfold, colour after colour, many of those with sight impairment did not. Sight loss is a spectrum: 93% of people with sight loss have some useful vision, 57,500 in Northern Ireland with 7% unable to see anything. With an ageing population it’s estimated that this figure will reach 73,200 by 2032.
I asked a friend about his blindness. He lost his sight when he was only five years of age. Does he have a mind’s eye where he can imagine things? No. He ‘watches’ television and the fact that audio description is common these days has made his life so much more pleasurable.
“For instance I enjoy Coronation Street but I had no interest in Strictly Come Dancing until I could listen to a voice describing the moves in great detail. I don’t see colours so that doesn’t mean anything but this service, which is becoming more and more common, has revolutionised life for so many people who can now appreciate these programmes with their families.”
He has chosen not to have a guide dog which he knows can be a life saving companion to others; he prefers a long cane and says he enjoys a normal life, and is married with three children, working and supporting the RNIB. Attitude is important and he is positive and upbeat about life.
Talking about role models and positive attitudes, the comedian Chris McCausland is a breath of fresh air. He’s blind due to retinitis pigmentosa. He graduated in 2000, with a BSc Honours in software engineering, had a spell as a web developer and worked in sales and in 2003 had his first success as a stand-up comic.
He is truly funny and often jokes about his lack of sight and makes programmes which give people knowledge of the condition. He’s hilarious on Would I Lie To You, has appeared in EastEnders and CBeebies and last year was astonishing in The Wonder of the World I Can’t See where Harry Hill, Liza Tarbuck and Tom Allen described famous landmarks which was as fun as it was educational.
The RNIB website is full of information and details of the important Technology for Life Fair at 11 am in the Europa Hotel, Belfast on February 28.
“RNIB’s vision is to create a world where sight loss is not a barrier – we do this by equipping people to thrive,” says this vital organisation.