I&B Ministry invites feedback for guidelines on accessibility features to help hearing and visually impaired movie-goers

The draft also suggests that the government will make accessibility features mandatory in films to be eligible for the State awards and film festivals organised by the government.
Image used for representation.
Image used for representation.

NEW DELHI: To ensure that persons with hearing and visual disability can enjoy movies in theatres, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has proposed the mandatory development of a separate copy of the feature films with audio description, open or closed captioning and Indian Sign Language Interpretation for their understanding.

The draft of the guidelines for ‘Accessibility Standards in the Public Exhibition of Feature Films in Cinema Theatres for Persons with Hearing and Visual Impairment’ released on Monday stated that the producer would be required to deliver two sets of the films for certification to Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC); the original version for the general public view and the second print with accessibility features including captions at the time of applying for certification.

Cinemas will need to ensure that feature films being delivered for theatrical releases mandatorily have both versions being certified by the Board, the draft further said.

The ministry has also proposed a dedicated show of feature films with accessible features for hearing or visually-impaired patrons.

The guidelines also recommended the installation of a set of equipment like a glass screen for caption display, the creation of a mobile application and headphones for audio description so that people with difficulties in hearing or viewing could read or hear the dialogues.

The ministry on Monday placed the draft in the public domain to invite feedback. The last date for sending a response is February 8. All other Feature Films being certified through CBFC and meant for theatrical release (digital feature films) will mandatorily provide accessibility features for captions and audio description for three years from the date of issue of these guidelines.

The Delhi High Court, in November, asked the Centre to put the draft guidelines for making the experience of watching films friendly for those with hearing and visual disabilities in the public domain. The court was hearing a petition by four people—a law student, two lawyers and a disability rights activist-- who sought directions for making Shah Rukh Khan’s film ‘Pathaan’ accessible to them.

The draft said that the Government might consider mandatory funding of accessibility features in films financially supported by them.

All feature films that are dubbed in more than one language would be required to provide at least one accessibility feature each for the hearing impaired and visually impaired within six months from the effective date of implementation of the guidelines.

“They may also make accessibility features mandatory in films to be eligible for the State awards and film festivals organised by them…Feature films submitted for consideration in the National Film Awards, in the Indian Panorama Section of the International Film Festival of India, Goa and Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) shall mandatorily include closed captioning and audio description with effect from 1st January, 2025,” the draft also stated.

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The New Indian Express