Accessible Film Project: Mentors, equipment, sight and sound

A boy placing figurines in a line
Wilf preparing a scene to film

The Accessible Film Project provides creative opportunities for people with sensory impairments to experiment with filmmaking techniques.

We are filming with three groups of participants and each person has their own preference of equipment and engagement with filmmaking. We have been lucky enough to have access to a wide range of equipment and even an experienced filmmaker and animator to act as a mentor.

Communication challenges and a mentor

Before Christmas, we worked with Wilf in Birmingham for another five filmmaking sessions. We have recently been joined by John Finn, who we know as Finn, an excellent filmmaker and animator. Finn is advising Wilf as his mentor. Finn had lots of professional tips and industry advice to share, which was so interesting for Wilf as he’s hoping to begin a media course in the future.

One of the challenges that we anticipated for these sessions was communication. Finn is Deaf and blind and he is a British Sign Language “BSL” user, whereas Wilf has CHARGE syndrome and has little experience of BSL. I’m learning BSL, but still on my first certificate, so we really needed another pair of hands. We were very fortunate to have a brilliant BSL interpreter to help us with the sessions.

For the first session, we were all finding our feet as it was a different dynamic and a different pace, but it worked really well. So well in fact, that Wilf and Finn are planning to carry on working together again soon.

“This is a really worthwhile project. It has shown that people who are blind, deaf blind, and others with various levels of ‘disabilities’ can be as creative as their peers. Now we move up a gear… we are now in the stage ‘The only limit is your imagination’ rather than ‘the limit is what you can do’” – John Finn.

A boy placing figurines in a line, watched by two people
Wilf with John Finn, preparing a scene

Selecting the right equipment

We’re halfway through the final course of workshops at TouchBase South East in Barnet.

So far the group have been testing out the equipment and deciding which they prefer to use.

One participant has opted for the GoPro and one for the chest harnesses, so she can still use her hands to move around freely. One participant chose the camcorder glasses and also likes recording sounds with a handheld sound recorder, whereas another participant really likes using the camcorder and prefers to use a tripod for the interviews we’ve been doing.

They’ve been exploring their senses using film, but most importantly they’ve been working together as a crew and have also been interviewing each other, which has been a great way to encourage peer-to-peer interaction.

Something special

We’re heading back to the Cambridge Resource Centre at the end of March to work with David, Stephanie, Rachel and Helen.

During the workshops last year we mainly focused on which film and sound equipment was accessible and students filmed their daily activities and experience at the Centre. This time they’ve decided they’d like to produce a music video! I can’t wait to see how it develops.

We’ll be showcasing people’s work at the Open Senses festival on the weekend of the 20 May, so please keep the date free to come and see their wonderful work. More details to follow soon…


Read more about the Accessible Film Project, and having the films screened in a local cinema.

Kate Dangerfield

Author: Kate Dangerfield

Kate Dangerfield is a PhD student at the University of Roehampton. Her research focuses on accessible film making for people with dual sensory impairments, and she has a particular interest in documentaries. Kate will be working with Sense on the Accessible Film Project until 2018.

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