New website to support accessible film screenings for deaf and blind audiences launches in the UK

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A new website for the UK, which is the first of its kind, aims to make cinema accessible to all.

Sidecard is a searchable database, which records details relating to film access materials, such as subtitle and audio description files.

The site is intended to improve and promote accessibility, encourage learning and resource sharing across cinemas, film festivals and the wider film exhibition sector. Around twelve million people (one in 5) in the UK are deaf or living with a hearing loss (RNID, 2022) with over 80% saying they would attend cinema regularly if a nearby cinema had captioned shows at convenient times (Inclusive Cinema, 2022). The project is supported by BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN), awarding funds from the National Lottery.

Sidecard is named after the separate “sidecar” files that are created to make screenings and home viewing accessible to deaf and blind audiences. No such files will be hosted on the site, but their details will be logged – who made them, who commissioned them, against what version of what particular film – and contact details provided, so that whoever might want to make further use of them can request the materials and permission to use them.

The website, which is a joint project of Matchbox Cine, BFI FAN’s Inclusive CinemaFilm Hub WalesFilm Hub Scotland and Independent Cinema Office, will invite users to upload details of subtitle and audio description files made to support accessible screenings and disc releases. Sidecard will also host glossaries and tailored guides to support distributors, exhibitors and film-makers to learn practically about making films more accessible. The website launches with more than 1000 access files listed already.

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