You should consider access when you are planning spaces, choosing equipment, and planning activities. It can be difficult to design in provision to meet everyone’s access requirements. You will need to be pro-active but also to consult and make adaptations for individual users.
For film viewing, you should provide spaces for wheelchair users (and their personal assistants). If possible, provide a choice of positions: users with visual or hearing impairments may prefer to be located at the front (make sure the front row isn’t too close to the screen) but others may be more comfortable in the middle rows or at the rear. Providing extra space between seat rows will make access easier.
Many DVDs have subtitles in English, which can be useful for those with hearing impairments or children whose first language is not English. Check that subtitles are visible to all viewers who might need them: in a room with no rake they may not be visible from the back. Many DVDs have audio descriptions: the RNIB have a downloadable list on their website.
When buying a DVD player, consider whether it has easy-to-use controls (including a dedicated button for audio description). ‘Talking menus’ are also useful.
Viewers should be given information about the venue or viewing space, and the content of any films which might cause problems: for example, strobe lighting or flash photography can trigger fits or migraines. Use plain English and easy read information. A useful guide can be downloaded from the EHRC.
Children on the autistic spectrum may find a traditional cinema experience, with full blackout, disturbing: consider reducing the sound levels, maintaining lighting at reduced levels, and enabling freedom of movement. They may also find the subject matter or narrative style of some films unpleasant.
You should consider additional signage and lighting, which can be helpful for viewers with visual impairments. Stewards or helpers could wear high-visibility clothing so that they can be identified when the lights are low.
Some viewers will find it difficult to sit through a long film, and will need breaks and/or access to a quiet space during screenings.
Disabled users should be supported to participate fully in filmmaking. Their impairments should not be a reason to limit the roles they play: students with visual impairments can use cameras and those with hearing impairments can work with sound.
A number of different solutions can help to facilitate access. Some are commercially available, though in some cases DIY improvisation may be necessary. Any adaptations should be made in consultation with individual users.
When buying cameras, evaluate how easy the controls are to use. Push-buttons and levers may be better than joysticks or dials for users with motor impairments. Touchscreens can be fiddly, and some menus can be complicated and confusing (though the camera may have a simpler ‘basic’ setting).
Some cameras come with remote controls, which can be very useful for students with motor or mobility impairments. They can sometimes be modified for individual needs: if you need to do this it’s worth approaching the manufacturer, as some have made free modifications for disabled users.
For users with visual impairments, the size of the camera screen is important. You may also be able to connect the camera to an external monitor or laptop to provide a bigger image.
Wheelchairs can be equipped with camera mounts, either purpose-built ones or monopods (one-legged tripods) securely attached by gaffer tape; you can also attach a monopod to a walking stick or crutch.
A ‘Fig Rig’ (a large ring of tubing, with a camera mount in the centre) can make it easier for users with motor impairments to hold cameras.
You can colour-code cables (using labels or insulating tape) for users with visual impairments or learning difficulties.
You should ensure that doors, room layout and the heights of working surfaces facilitate access for wheelchair users and students with other impairments.
Some basic editing programs offer simple drag-and-drop editing, making them relatively easy to use. Unfortunately, professional programs are complex and screen readers currently do not work with them.
To improve access, you can:
- Use a large screen, or preferably two screens
- Set up keyboard shortcuts or voice commands for editing operations
- Consider using a special colour-coded keyboard or overlay
- Use speakers rather than headphones so that deaf users can feel sound vibrations
- Change program settings, eg by making track and icon sizes larger and displaying audio waveforms.