For the last 34 years of my existence on this planet (which would be my entire existence) I have experienced my world (not to mention the many imaginary worlds I have visited) strictly through sound.
Having been blind sense birth, I have never been able to play sports, or grab my keys and go for a drive, so much of my free time was spent wandering the worlds that were concocted by the imaginations of others.
I have spent a great deal of time exploring the landscapes of Middle Earth and the snow-covered land of Narnia through literature and film, but my favorite has always been the different worlds, planets and galaxies that fill science fiction. And like most science fiction fans of my generation, this life-long obsession with space and the different planets and aliens that inhabit it began with George Lucas and his creation of Star Wars.
Like so many of my favorite memories of my childhood, my love for Star Wars can be traced back to none other then my big sister, who is two years my senior.
When I was around 8 years old, My 10-year old sister would sit with her blind little brother, showing him episodes 4-6, and while my ears were being treated to a cascade of timeless music, clever and witty dialogue and sound effects unlike anything I had ever heard, she would do her best to describe to me the action between Luke, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, the evil Darth Vader and the colorful cast of aliens that populated all three films.
When my sister and I were not watching and re-watching the films, we would be in her room, where she possessed every Star Wars action figure known to man.
Some she kept in the package and informed me that were I to open any of them, the consequences would be dire, but the figures that were already out of their pristine packaging I was allowed to touch and play with.
By touching and feeling the different characters, it allowed me to imagine and conjure up some sort of an image of what the character or creature actually looked like on the screen.
When I began buying my own Star Wars figures, it was simply out of the question that I would keep them in the package, for I absolutely had to remove them in order to feel the different contours of each and every character, alien, stormtrooper and battle droid. I would even meticulously feel their weapons and accessories to have an idea of what they must be using in the films.
Of course opening the package destroyed the value of the figure immediately, but it increased it exponentially for the young blind Star Wars fan.
As I got older, my sister would introduce me to the literature of Star Wars, and the hundreds of novels that now (thanks to Micky Mouse) are now refereed to as “Star Wars Legends.”
Through the vivid and beautifully crafted descriptions of such authors as Timothy Zahn and Kevin J Anderson, the world of Star Wars was opened up to me like never before.
These authors would weave their words together, and paint a vivid and colorful tapestry of the landscapes of the different planets (from the lush jungles of Naboo and Yavin 4, to the sprawling city of Coruscant, to the harsh tundra of Hoth and blistering desert surrounding Mos Eisley on Tatooine).
I would spend the bulk of my adolescence devouring novel after novel (in both Braille and audio) one after the other, and with each one the world and characters of Star Wars became less and less blurry, but nothing would provide more clarity to this world that I loved so much than a development that would take place when I was in my mid-20s.
During the year of 2013, along with the options for closed captioning and different languages, many films started including an “audio descriptive” service, which could be found in the “audio” options on most DVD and Blu-ray main menus.
I received the remastered Star Wars trilogy as a gift for Christmas when I was about 26 years old, nearly 20 years after first “watching” Star Wars with my big sister.
I put A New Hope into my Blu-ray player, selected the “audio descriptive” option, and something happened that had not happened in 18 years of being an avid fan, a tear nearly fell from my blind eye, as I “saw” Star Wars for the very first time.
Through the incredibly detailed audio description, no longer did I need wonder what my favorite characters looked like, what the different planets looked like, or what action was taking place when there was no dialogue. For the first time ever, the world of Star Wars was completely opened up to me, just as if I were a sighted fan.
Every two-headed or green alien was described to me in great detail, every fast-paced dog fight was brought to stunning life (for no longer was it just music and sound effects) and I did not miss a single blaster bolt or swing of a lightsaber, and how I would experience Star Wars was changed forever, after I really saw it for the very first time.
After watching episodes 4-6 in rapid succession, I used the magic of Disney+ to start from the very beginning, watching episodes 1-9, Rogue One and Solo, all with audio description, and experienced Star Wars in a way that this life-long blind Star Wars fan would have never thought possible.
Now I am nearly 34 years of age, and I get to look forward to every episode of The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and all other upcoming Star Wars series, with the same anticipation as my sighted peers, now possessing the knowledge that while I might still be blind, I will not miss a moment.
May the force be with you, always.
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