BOSTON -- Stop & Shop here in July began offering "described" videos for the blind and visually impaired at its 57 Video Centers, making it the first retail channel in the country to provide this specialized service.
Known as Descriptive Video Service, the videos provide oral narration of key visual elements on screen without disrupting program dialogue. The videos are distributed by DVS Home Video, a branch of the Boston public television station WGBH that premiered close captioning for the hearing impaired in the 1970s.
Stop & Shop spokeswoman Mary-Jo Anderson said managers of stores carrying the tapes have received a great deal of positive feedback.
"The good will goes a lot further than what is not a minute market but a good-sized market of visually impaired who have always wanted this type of service," she said. There are roughly 11.5 million blind or visually impaired people in this country, according to Raymond Joyce, marketing director for DVS Home Video. That number will only increase as the population gradually ages, thus increasing the need for this service.
Consumers are not charged extra for this service; the videos are priced the same as other rentals. "So many [of those renting the videos] are elderly and on fixed incomes and they can't be overspending on luxuries," said Anderson.
Each Video Center carries approximately 30 titles in specially merchandised DVS sections. Anderson said signs and TV monitors playing DVS videos are displayed there but beyond announcing the tapes' availability in Stop & Shop's weekly circulars at the time of their debut, little publicity has been provided.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty in making the public aware of the tapes' availability is reaching those who are most likely to take advantage of them. Because those people can not generally read newspapers, efforts to promote the tapes have largely been handled by WGBH because it is more likely to reach those who can make the best use of them.
Supermarkets seemed like a natural selling point for the videos because of their easy accessibility, said Joyce of DVS Home Video. "This is our new effort. We've talked to Blockbuster. We'd also be very interested in other supermarket chains because the mobility of blind and visually impaired people can be an issue," he said.