Struggling for an accessible culture | Society

Struggling for an accessible culture | Society

Many people love the cinema and when we enter the room and take refuge in our seat, we look forward to the moment when the lights go out to immerse ourselves in the world that will appear on the screen and envelop us with its sounds. It is a wonderful experience. Angel García Crespo, an industrial engineer and passionate about cinema and theater, also lives: "Cinema is for me stories, human beings like to tell us stories, what we see is a lie, but cinema is able to take us out an emotion, a tear, a laugh ... "

Imagine for a moment that, in that process of immersion in a fiction (even at home and with television), we have our eyes covered and we can only follow what happens in the film through audio. You can do the test: you will follow the story better or worse if there is a narrative or through its dialogues, and there will be sounds that tell you details. But will we find out everything? Let's do another experiment: this time, instead of the image, let's remove the sound. Let's watch a movie without what the voices of the actors tell us, or the music or the noises ... Surely, in this case too we can find out the plot and identify the characters and their relationship between them. But it is difficult that a leisure experience that is conceived as audiovisual can be full if we remove the image or sound.

Now let's think about the blind community and the deaf community. How can people who are lacking or have a decreased sense of sight or hearing enjoy cinema? If you go to a room with an original version, sometimes you will share it with groups of deaf people who take advantage of the subtitles to do something as usual for the rest of us as going to a premiere. And blind people? Well, those who dare to go, are accompanied by someone who is explaining in their ears what happens on the screen.

Accessibility elements

Angel realized a few years ago that not everyone can enjoy cinema or theater because they are not accessible. After the premiere of his film Mileuristas in 2012, to which he had put subtitles thinking that this made it accessible to the deaf community, one person told him that he had not heard because there was no translation in sign language. Not all hearing disabilities are the same and different approaches are necessary. And he decided to do something about it: "My engineer mentality went to work, and I began to see what needs blind and deaf people had, how they could get a film to them."

As director of SoftLab, the laboratory of the Carlos III University of Madrid specialized in accessibility and semantic technology, Ángel launched a line of research dedicated to making culture more accessible for people with sensory disabilities: blind and deaf. And that's how they developed WhatsCine, an application that allows people with visual and hearing disabilities to enjoy cinema or theater.

Enrique, a blind person who collaborates as a researcher with SoftLab, explains the operation of this tool: "It is an application for mobile or tablet that is synchronized with a device that exists in the movie theater and that, for [las personas] that we do not see, sends an audio description about the characters when there are silences in the dialogue and that our companion told us before. For deaf people, the film is told in sign language or in subtitles that, instead of seeing them on the projector screen, you see them on your screen. tablet. " And, in addition, WhatsCine generates something that is very important for anyone: it gives them autonomy.

Involvement of all parties

To make a film accessible, it is necessary that all the agents involved in a film production are involved: directors, producers and distributors (there are more than 800 rooms accessible in Spain). And, according to Angel, now it is no longer a technical or economic problem, since to incorporate all the elements of accessibility (audio description, subtitling and sign language) you need about 1,500 euros. An amount that, within a budget of a film, is "less than what is spent at the end of shooting parties."

Although in Spain there is no law that makes films accessible, the truth is that they adapt to television. It seems that it does not make much sense that, instead of starting the process in that second phase of the life of a movie, it is not done from the beginning. "There is a certain modesty to do things for people with disabilities," explains Angel, annoyed by the lack of sensitivity of some people. And not only that: it also seems that they do not care that less people see it. It would rather be to establish a point of inflection very simple to understand: "The film is not finished until you can see everyone."

Culture for all

The integration of people with different disabilities in our society should not be limited to the workplace or mobility, which are those that we have most present. Every time we are more aware and put more measures for the development of the day to day of any person, but it seems that leisure is not so present in these efforts of accessibility. "Culture is the basis of society, and cinema and theater are part of culture and what we are," explains Ángel. "There can not be excluded people like the blind and the deaf, and I, as an engineer, want to solve the problems that exist so that these people can access cinema and theater on an equal footing." Your fight should be everyone's.

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Content adapted from the Angel video


In Spain, some 500 films a year are released in cinemas. More than a million people with visual or hearing disabilities have difficulties to enjoy them. Ángel García has designed an application to make movies accessible through audio description, subtitles and sign language. Today, more than 800 rooms offer up to 200 accessible films.


A movie can change a person's life. I'm an engineer, I've always liked to create, do different things. I started writing theater, I realized that I wrote well and then I threw myself into the pool. I said: "I'm going to go to the movies."


Movies are stories for me and people are stories, that is, they are capable of transmitting an emotion, of coming inside, of tearing us out or laughing, okay? Because, in the end, we are all human and we have that inside.


When we premiere Mileuristas At the Cinema Academy, a young, deaf boy came out who needed a sign language interpreter and said: "I have not heard anything." And I said: "Hosts!" I had never thought about whether a deaf or blind person could go to the cinema and enjoy it. That there are other people who have limited their freedom did not seem good to me, then my engineer mentality went to work.


In the OffLab group of Carlos III University [de Madrid] We were the first to use the mobile to show the elements of accessibility, subtitling, sign language and audio description. I believe that the penetration that the smartphones at that time it was 20%. Nobody had Internet on their mobile and we saw that the future was going around.


We started in theater. I remember being upstairs with the technical team and seeing deaf people talking to each other in sign language ... I still have my hair standing on end.


They saw it without any difficulty. Now it may seem trivial, but no, it was not, at that time there were zero theatrical performances for deaf people. To this day, in the United States there are people who are using their mobile phones to do the same thing that we did five years ago. We are a university, we do not sell, we license that technology to companies that are responsible for it, such as the case of WhatsCine, of that commercialization.


In our laboratory we have a totally pioneering research line in the world dedicated to making culture more accessible for people with sensory disabilities. We always try to be on the crest of the wave.


With WhatsCine, what has been achieved during these five years [en funcionamiento] is that there are 800 rooms accessible throughout Spain, 150 films accessible from the first moment. What would I like to do? Well, all the movies are accessible. The movie does not end until everyone can see it.


It is not a money problem because it is not; if you want it is done. Culture is the basis of society and cinema and theater are part of culture and what we are. That is why there can not be people excluded from culture, such as the blind and the deaf.

This content has been developed by Yoigo.


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