I recently had the pleasure of watching “Blindsight”, a documentary about 6 blind teenagers from Tibet who strike out to climb Lhakpa Ri, a peak on the North side of Mount Everest that measures over 23,000 feet in elevation. This true story follows the children who attend the “Braille Without Borders” school for blind children in Lhasa, Tibet. The school, founded by blind German Sabriye Tenberken, is one of the only places in the country where blind children are welcomed and taught to be able to live and work just like any other person.
In the Buddhist culture of Tibet, blindness is seen as a curse that is a result of a person doing something very terrible in a previous life. As such, blind people in their culture are completely scorned by everyone, sometimes including their own family members who view them as a burden. Each of the children get a chance to share their personal stories as we follow them up one of the world’s highest mountains, and each one is sure to touch your heart.
The trek begins when the children learn of Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man to ever scale Mount Everest. Inspired by his story, they contact him and ask him to come to TIbet to speak to the class. Instead of just coming for a visit though, Erik brings a crew of other mountain climbing professionals with him and they begin a journey to tackle not only the mountain, but also peoples’ perceptions of what the blind are capable of. The children make a powerful statement that ultimately will change their lives forever.
This inspiring documentary is much further-reaching than the scope of most of what we discuss here on the Accessible Games website but it is such a great documentary that I think it deserves some attention. It shows the power of the human spirit and what people can accomplish no matter their background. In a world where blindness is treated as a curse, these children managed to challenge that perception and prove it to be false.
We can each take away something different from the movie, but the key here is that all you need to do is believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything you desire. I highly recommend the movie to absolutely everyone, but especially for people with disabilities who may sometimes need an encouraging reminder that nothing is impossible.
With all of that in mind, this wouldn’t be a proper Accessible Games review without a note about accessibility. While the movie itself is an inspiration to all, there are a few limitations that need to be considered when renting the film.
I originally watched Blindsight via Netflix’s “View Instantly” service — their video-on-demand service which streams movies to your television. As such, there were no options to change the language or subtitle preferences. It should be noted that much of Blindsight is spoken in English, Tibetan and Chinese, so if you are blind or visually impaired you may need someone to read subtitles to you.
The physical DVD has a few different options for viewing the film:
Languages: English and Tibetan
Subtitles: English, SDH, Spanish
What the DVD lacks, unfortunately, is audible descriptions of what is happening in the movie. Some movies for the blind have the an option, similar to subtitles, to have descriptions of actions spoken aloud when there is no dialogue to itnerfere with. A movie such as this should, in my opinion, make use of such a feature as the movie seems particularly suited to blind individuals. Alas, no such option is present.
On the other hand, there are a few language options and sub-title/closed-caption options, which is great for people who are deaf. These are more common with DVDs in general though. Overall, the DVD makes good use of language and subtitle / closed-captioning to be accessible to people who are hard of hearing.
If you have the means, I would highly recommend renting or streaming Blindsight. It is a powerful documentary that has some great lessons for everyone, regardless of ability.