Article: Sidecard: New website launches to support accessible film screenings for UK deaf and blind audiences

A new website designed to make cinema more accessible to Deaf and Blind audiences has launched in the UK.

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

The site, which is the first of its kind, 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, awarding funds from the National Lottery.

Charlotte Little, Access Consultant and member of Sidecard’s working group, explains: “Descriptive subtitles completely transform my viewing experience and having a database like Sidecard, to refer audiences and practitioners to, will be of huge significance in the ongoing journey to standardise accessibility within film exhibition.”

The site, a joint project of Matchbox Cine, Inclusive Cinema, Film Hub Wales, Film 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.

Sidecard is named for 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.

Megan Mitchell, Inclusive Cinema Project Manager for BFI FAN explains: “Sidecard will support exhibitors, and those across the sector keen to support diverse audiences, to more easily find and share accessible versions of films. With exhibitors, especially mid-sized festivals and smaller exhibitors within Scotland, having made a considered effort to increase accessible screenings for Deaf and disabled audiences over the past few years, Sidecard aims to facilitate a collaborative sector wide effort to allow exhibitors to ensure all audiences have access to great films.”

The project was supported by BFI FAN – a UK-wide network made up of national and regional Hubs which seek to ensure the greatest choice of cinema is available to everyone across the UK. Inclusive Cinema is part of BFI FAN and coordinated by Film Hub Wales. 

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