How do people with dual sensory impairments access audiovisual media? That was the big question that led me to do a three-year PhD at the University of Roehampton.
I became interested in the topic after studying and working on media accessibility and film projects. There had always been a focus on audio description for blind and partially sighted people and subtitles or sign language for deaf and hard of hearing audiences – but what about people with dual sensory impairments?
With the support of Sense and the University, and with funding from the BFI Diversity Fund, we embarked on two series of ten research workshops in Birmingham and Cambridge for the first part of our Accessible Film Project.
The project provides creative opportunities for people with sensory impairments to experiment with filmmaking techniques, test equipment for accessibility and improve access to low-budget film production and audiovisual media.
Wilf gets animated
In Birmingham, we worked with one individual – a young man named Wilf. He’s 18 years old and has CHARGE syndrome. He chose to make a stop-motion animation using the Playmobil figures he collects. He was engrossed in the process from the first workshop.
The scene depicted in the image features a bank robbery. The bad guys are getting away, but the police are in hot pursuit. Wilf created the animation by painstakingly moving each figurine, before taking a single photo of the scene on a still camera.
Wilf put all the photos together using computer-editing software. Then, much like a flicker book, the animation sequence came to life.
In Cambridge, we worked with nine young adults with dual and single sensory impairments and additional learning disabilities – and the workshops took on a very different feel.
Participants were involved at different times during the course of the workshops. The group tested a range of filmmaking techniques, and chose to film their experiences of the daily activities they do at the Cambridge Resource Centre.
The activities included rebound therapy, cookery, sports, sensory stories and shopping at their local supermarket, where they interviewed the store manager. It feels like the start of a great documentary in the making.
We’ll be working with all of the participants again later in the year, and have planned the next series of workshops at TouchBase South East in Barnet in January.
Stay tuned to find out more about the budding filmmakers!