Not Only A Humanitarian Cause

dsc05939By Rhea D’Souza

“The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities highlights the importance of accessibility to the cultural environment, which cinema is a part of, and calls for “universal design” to accomplish that goal. It’s not only a humanitarian cause, but also makes commercial sense. Audiences will increase when films become more accessible, says Moe Chiba, Section Chief & Programme specialist for Culture at UNESCO, who curated the IFFI 2016 Seminar on Making Cinema Accessible for “Differently-Abled Citizens.”
IFFI 2016 was the first time visually impaired delegates could experience cinema, through audio-descriptive (AD) films. “Audio-description is an old concept” explained Narendra Joshi, pioneer and expert in the field of audio described movies for the visually challenged in India. He used a clip from ‘Dhanak (2015)’, one of the three AD movies screened at this IFFI, to explain how descriptions of scenes between dialogues are used. He said, “while making a film we have the visuals and the background score, which consists of the music and the dialogues. In between the dialogues there are gaps which vary in time and this is where the supporting audio-description will fit. A good audio-description needs to be simple, specific, brief, clearly pronounced in the first person present form and match the energy of the visuals on screen.”
“We are currently in the ‘awareness phase’ ” said Dipendra Manocha, founder of the ‘Saksham Trust’ N.G.O. which aims at helping persons with blindness and multiple disabilities. “While many countries do adopt a mandatory audio-description policy, we here in India need to move with technology and create various accessible film aids like selective transmission of the audio-description through separate headphones, or by the remote control on a T.V. set.” Film director Sharada Ramanathan said, “we need to be 100% inclusive and work on alternative narratives for our scripts. More directors, producers and movie officials need to have this kind of exposure.”