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January 17, 2020

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Bringing films to life still difficult issue

Visually impaired Shanghai residents have been enjoying accessible films, but the service still has room for improvement, a deputy to the Shanghai People’s Congress said yesterday.

Accessible films are films with a voice-over explaining elements in the films such as how the characters look, what they do, and the background, so that people with impaired eyesight can understand what’s going on.

Wang Qiuyue, head of Yangpu District’s Social Work Association, said that due to legal restrictions the latest movies were seldom suitable for the visually impaired.

Shanghai is a leader in providing accessible film services in China and has been making the service increasingly available.

While the first such films were screened in 2007, by 2011, thanks to efforts by the city’s associations of disabled people, about 30 domestic and foreign films had been made accessible with about 50,000 copies distributed. The films were shown at 40 sites around the city, she said.

Twenty commercial cinemas in Shanghai have screenings solely for the visually impaired. By the end of this year, all subdistricts and towns in Shanghai should be able to offer accessible films, Wang said.

There are about 158,000 visually impaired residents in Shanghai.

She said accessible films should have an embedded soundtrack when being produced, so the visually impaired can use wireless earphones in a normal cinema screening.

“There are no technical difficulties in doing this, and to enable it will save the cinemas trouble of reserving a whole screening session for these special viewers,” she said.

The problem, Wang said, is laws in China restrict copyright exemptions for the visually impaired to books.

“Due to copyright issues, the visually impaired have only a limited selection of films to watch with the help of film explaining volunteers, and very few films share their copyright with those people,” Wang said.

She suggested the government include the development of accessible films in its policy to develop the film industry in Shanghai and also in legislation for an accessible society.


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