Courtesy Richard Blythe
Richard Blythe is a volunteer commentator with the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service, which describes the Rose Parade for blind spectators.
The Tournament of Roses Parade is a feast for the eyes. A group of volunteers works each year to make sure the event appeals to people who can’t experience it that way.
It started with Jolie Mason. When she was a child, she loved seeing the Rose Parade.
"And then, unfortunately when I went blind, it just wasn’t there for me," she said.
As an adult, Mason vowed to make the parade a vivid event for others who can’t see. With five curbside chairs along the parade route and a volunteer from the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service.
18 years later, the city of Pasadena ropes off 150 free street-level seats for blind people and their families at Colorado Boulevard and Garfield Avenue. They listen to the narration over a low-power FM signal.
If you’re near, you’ll get a great show because volunteers hoist signs asking the bands to stop and perform. Many do. Here's now Mason would describe the University of Wisconsin marching band.
"Over from the left of our site you hear the band far away and then suddenly there they are, the music swirls around you like a wave, like an ocean wave, that just carries you up, it’s so exciting!"
Mason said the narrators study each float before the parade. "You want a pretty straightforward audio description. Audio describers don’t use metaphor, they would never describe something as pretty, but they might say something like 'diamond-studded'."
Like all prime spots along the Rose Parade route, this year’s 150 seats were spoken for months in advance. But you can hear a live stream of the broadcast on the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service website. It runs a second live stream on a smart phone app synched to HG-TV’s live coverage.
Jolie Mason said more audio descriptions like this are coming to TV, thanks to a new federal law that takes effect in 2013. It requires top cable and TV channels to increase the hours of audio descriptions they provide.