DVDs with audio description at Toronto Public Library

If you’re blind or visually impaired, or if you’re just keen or these sorts of things, you can watch DVDs with audio description – additional narration that talks you through the movie, telling you whatever’s happening that you can’t figure out from the the main soundtrack.

I could go on a big diversion here about what a total nightmare it has been over the last decade just to make sure the description track from the first-run theatrical release actually makes it to home video. I could also describe how I actually maintained the master list of DVDs with audio description for years until I realized that threatened to become a lifelong unpaid (and unappreciated) task.

Anyway. TPL has a couple of hundred DVDs with audio description. The problem is they are really hard to look up in the catalogue. You have to use exactly this subject heading:

Video recordings for people with visual disabilities

You must also know to search by subject. A seemingly simple step like that is actually way beyond the capacity of most users, nor should it be their problem, nor does the new catalogue make subject searches easy.

Yes, there’s a link to that search on an accessibility page. But had you ever heard of that page? Did you know TPL had DVDs with description? Did you know how to find them?

That’s a lot of problems. But one of them has been solved.

Easy ways to tell people how to find described DVDs

At my suggestion, the crack TPL Web team (that is not an ironic statement) added a bunch of shortcuts. They’ve been set up so you can tell people how to search for DVDs when you’re just talking to them, or are running a radio show, or are using something other than an online medium where somebody can click a link.

It’s real simple. Just tell your friends to go to any of these:

  • TPL.ca/describeddvds

  • TPL.ca/audiodescription

  • TPL.ca/descriptivevideo

  • TPL.ca/moviesfortheblind

Nice easy-to-remember phrases. Tell all your friends.

(If you want to write out TorontoPublicLibrary.CA instead, you can.)

A week later, TPL says the same thing

…on the little-known TPL accessibility blog.


Confidential to Phil Preville

Philip Preville, a resident contrarian at Toronto Life despite not living a life in Toronto, took time out from his busy suburban lifestyle to damn Rob Ford with faint praise. One of the achievements Preville attributed to him? “At Fairview Library, an automated book sorter will save $160,000. It all adds up.”

The May issue publishes (i.e., rewrites) my response:

In “The Flip Side of Ford,” the half-hearted panegyric to our mayor that appeared in our March issue, Philip Preville mentioned an automated sorter at Fairview Library that will save $160,000. He failed to note that the equipment comes at a cost of four and a half jobs. Neither did he mention that the Toronto Public Library budget was reduced in 2012, inciting librarians to strike. Preville said “it all adds up,” but he wasn’t adding all of it up

What I actually wrote:

Philip Preville – in the wrong more often than any Toronto Life columnist (and he doesn’t even live in Toronto) – blows it again in his half-assed panegyric to Rob Ford. “At Fairview Library, an automated sorter will save $160,000,” he writes, failing to mention that the equipment comes at the cost of 4.5 full-time-equivalent jobs. (That’s on top of the 107 positions by which the library is already short.)

But Preville doesn’t account for those details, or for the fact that the library budget was reduced this year under the current board, which actually managed to infuriate librarians enough for them to go on strike in 2012. So yes, “[i]t all adds up” – if what you’re adding up is really “all” of it.

Phil Preville, go fuck yourself.

Buy this shirt and send pennies flying in the vague direction of the Toronto Public Library

Here we have a fashion spread, to the extent that photos of a guy in different T-shirts constitutes one, in the penultimate issue of homosexualist fortnightly Fab, available at most if not all library branches.

Fashion photos, one of them with a black guy in a TPL T-shirt

Yes, this “tee” really exists if you want to traipse down to the Drake General Store to buy one, presumably after picking through the detritus of Parkdale branch’s DVD collection. (Or you could shop online. Or visit the Store’s other two branches, one of which is up the road from Yorkville branch and TRL.) Or you could just hand the TPL Foundation some cash instead of deluding yourself that pennies’ royalties on a T-shirt make any difference.

Now, the Foundation is of course a separate organization, but it exists as a kind of bank of last resort, a genteel and non-usurious payday-loan service, for an intentionally underfunded Toronto Public Library. They run a Book Lovers’ Ball every year and host occasional receptions that are the unspoken reason why the Cube entrance at the Reference Library was constructed. (Note the mezzanine level to nowhere, and the aluminum panels that prevent the unwashed masses shivering outside from upskirting the nice ladies who linger upstairs waiting to be noticed.)

None of this even pretends to replace the library’s true need – actually sufficient taxpayer funding. Whenever you visit the library, think to yourself “Your tax dollars at work.”

So can we get out of the T-shirt business and the Heather Reisman online-affiliate business and the dinging-people-for-holds business and get back into the public fucking library business, please?