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December 6, 2002

Project helps deaf and blind filmgoers

From: BBC, UK - 06 Dec 2002

Lottery funding has been made available to help UK cinemas become more accessible to customers with hearing and sight difficulties .

The Film Council plans to work with cinema owners to test out audio and visual aid systems in up to one in 10 British cinemas.

The council is investing £350,000 of National Lottery funding in a pilot project to install captioning and audio description equipment at selected cinemas.

It is asking the movie industry to match the amount - allowing about 75 cinemas to take part in the trial.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), which represents the needs of nine million people, says it has campaigned for two years for more subtitling.

It says five million people in Britain who are deaf or have hearing problems regularly use captioning to help them enjoy films.

RNID spokesman Brian Lamb said: "Since the advent of 'talkies', cinema has been totally inaccessible to deaf people.

"At long last the access needs of deaf and hard of hearing people are being recognised by the Film Council.

"We want every cinema to have facilities for subtitling by 2005."

Pete Buckingham, the Film Council's head of distribution, said the move would help 15% of Britons with hearing or sight problems.

He said: "Film is an immensely powerful medium which entertains, inspires, challenges and informs audiences.

"The Film Council wants to work with the film industry to ensure that as many people have access to as broad a range of films as possible."

Under the pilot scheme, council officials will monitor the equipment's performance and assess demand.

The funding will be aimed at mainly at blockbusters and major releases.

An extra £60,000 has been made available for smaller independent "art-house" films.