One World 2017 reaches out to audiences with various disabilities

 

Audiences with various types of disabilities will this year for the first time have the opportunity to attend selected screenings, debates and ceremonies at the One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, which will take place in Prague from 6 – 15 March. The festival team in cooperation with expert organisations will open up part of the programme to the blind and partially sighted, the deaf and hard of hearing, audiences with mental disabilities and reduced mobility. One World will thus become the first festival in the Czech Republic to systematically remove barriers faced by various groups of people. 

"We work with a broad concept of human rights, as stated in the Universal Declaration," said festival director Hana Kulhánková. "According to the Declaration everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of their community.” The initiative to open up the festival and make it accessible is called One World for All and in the first year it will apply only to a selected part of the programme.

"Last year at an international meeting of documentary film festival organisers, which regularly takes place during One World in Prague, we talked about what large festivals are missing and what needs to be improved," said Kulhánková. "We discovered that the main thing is accessibility for people with various disabilities, so we decided to address that this year."

"Making the festival more accessible is also in keeping with the theme of the festival, which is the Art of Collaboration," Kulhánková continued. "We are trying to accommodate all groups of audiences and to give them the widest possible access to our festival. No other cultural event in the Czech Republic has taken such a comprehensive approach."

The deaf watch Hollywood and cannot access Czech films

There are more than a million people with disabilities in the Czech Republic, representing a huge potential audience. But large cultural events are open only to some of them. Many film and music festivals are today accessible only to people with reduced mobility, for example. But there are also around a half million people living among us with hearing impairments, of whom some 15,000 were born with impaired hearing, and almost 8,000 are completely deaf, whose mother tongue is sign language. They are dependent on interpretation or special subtitles, neither of which is necessarily available at most cultural events in the Czech Republic.

"Most large festivals in the Czech Republic unfortunately do not offer interpretation, so it's hard for the deaf to participate in cultural life to the same degree as everyone else," said Zuzana Hájková, a Czech sign language translator. "The deaf don't go to Czech films in the cinema simply because there are no subtitles. This pushes us away from Czech culture and that's a real shame. That's why most of us love American or foreign films."

Openness is not common at Czech cultural events even for people with mental disabilities, which is about 3% of the population. "For these people it is difficult just to get their bearings in the various festivals, to buy a ticket and arrange for someone to accompany them,” said Camille Latimier, director of the Association to Support People with Mental Disabilities. “They often therefore go to events that someone else has chosen for them, usually where the person accompanying them wants to go. For this group of people it is very helpful when things like the festival programme, the ticket reservation system and getting around at the venue itself are simple and easy to navigate. On top of that, in our experience these are things that everyone ends up appreciating."

One World opening ceremony this year also in sign language

Selected texts on the website and in the One World 2017 film catalogue will be adapted into a special easy-to-read format and the festival team including volunteers will be trained in communicating with people with special needs. Special attention will also be devoted to making the cinemas easier to navigate. In addition, One World is attempting to remove, or at least reduce, barriers in the cinemas where the festival films are screened. The festival opening ceremony in the Lucerna cinema and the ceremonial presentation of the Homo Homini Award for human rights at the Prague Crossroads will be interpreted into sign language, including the musical parts of the programme. Audiences will also be able to watch one of the panel debates in sign language as well as Q&As following documentary films featuring special subtitles. These were created in cooperation with representatives of groups for the deaf and hard of hearing for the films Children Online, Normal Autistic Film, Good Postman, Dil Leyla a Seeing Voices. The first two of these will also feature audio description for the blind and visually impaired. This will also accompany an exhibition of photographs taken by blind photographers from the film Shot in the Dark at the Audience Centre in the Lucerna Gallery.

Some of the cinemas in which One World will screen films are equipped with an induction loop. But not all cinemas use the system, even though it is an important tool allowing the hard of hearing to better understand the films. "An induction loop is an electronic device installed in the cinema or at the box office that makes it easier for hearing impaired audiences to receive sound from the film and understand what they are watching," explains Mariana Chytilová, coordinator of One World for All.

One World will also include deaf, visually impaired people and people in wheelchairs among its volunteers who are helping to run the festival.

Audience members with a disability ID card will receive a 50% discount on all screenings. The person accompanying them will receive the same discount.

This year's festival programme also features a whole range of films about people who must overcome certain types of barriers and come to terms with the restrictions that society sees as a handicap. These films will help regular audience members understand their situations.  

"The handicap does not originate with the disabled person, but from society that creates barriers," said Mariana Chytilová. "The attempt to create an open environment is ultimately not only advantageous for people with disabilities, but for everyone – for parents with prams, for seniors or for people who don't speak Czech." One World traditionally offers afternoon screenings for seniors with reduced ticket prices and this year for the first time also a baby-friendly screening in which the lights are not completely dimmed, the volume is not as loud and children not expected to be quiet.

All information about the screenings and the accompanying programme open to specific groups is available in an easy-to-read format at www.jedensvet.cz/jsprovsechny (only in Czech language and Czech sign language). After Prague, One World for All will for the first time also be applied in other festival cities in the Czech Republic.


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