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A New Approach to Film Accessibility

Written by Liz Crow
Guide to making film accessible to audiences with sensory impairments
Oct 2005.


Roaring Girl Productions is part of a wider move to pioneer new approaches to film accessibility, working to make audio description, captioning and sign language interpretation (ACS) an integral part of the production process rather than an access ‘add-on’. This is so that people with sensory impairments can participate fully as audience members and filmmakers’ work can be accurately and sensitively conveyed.

ACS is rarely included within the production of the core film. Although the number of audio described and captioned films is rapidly increasing, production is rarely addressed before the point of distribution, when the creative production of the film is complete. As a result, the film is generally ‘shoe horned’ into an existing template that often bears no relation to, and may even undermine, the aesthetic of the film.

Film exists across genre, encompasses every subject, style and emotion. Yet, when it comes to access, there is still a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Sign language interpreters and captions are usually located in boxes to the right and base of the screen, whilst the main picture is shrunk and pushed aside to accommodate them. Audio description frequently seems just as removed from the overall feel of the production. For the audience, the very methods designed to promote access can detract from the qualitative experience of the production. For the filmmaker, the access conventions available can misrepresent and undermine the vision they have worked so hard to create and communicate.

In response to this, we are experimenting with imaginative and innovative approaches to ACS in our own productions, working to combine art form and function in ways which enhance the experience of both audience and filmmaker. Specifically, we are producing ACS at the time of production (rather than at the distribution stage or undertaking it live at the point of screening or transmission), bringing it into the core of the creative process and experimenting with both aesthetic and technological solutions. This has the potential to create ACS which is:

• High quality

• Technically reliable

• Better able to represent the vision of a specific work.

We are testing this work with audiences, filmmakers, distributors and access facilitators. At the same time as increasing the accessibility of our own productions, our intention is to promote debate on how to develop the audience access further.

We are not setting out to define a ‘protocol’. Rather, we want to:

• Generate a dialogue between audiences, filmmakers, distributors and access facilitators

• Inspire others to experiment and push the bounds of ACS so that it works for art form and function

• Motivate others to make innovative use of existing and developing technologies in improving the film experience

• Encourage audiences to demand more of filmmakers and distributors, and for filmmakers and distributors to rise to that challenge.

This document sets out the approach we used in making the film Nectar. It describes the three methods of access used in the production – audio description, captioning and sign language interpretation – taking the reader through all stages of production.

To read more, please download the PDF below.

Download PDF

To cite this page: Crow, Liz (2005) A New Approach to Film Accessibility, Roaring Girl Productions [online] [Available at:] [Accessed 19/06/2024]