Thanks to an app, there is a possibility of choosing to experience with others the magic of cinema.
Laura Raffaeli - Blindsight Project Onlus

Towards the end of the '90s, when Italians still enjoyed movies in theatres, there emerged the need to make films accessible to persons with visual and hearing disabilities. In those years, some access to new technological aids marked an increase in autonomy. The method most often used by visually impaired people, on the rare occasions when a film was made accessible, were headphones that, connected to a server or a centralized device, broadcast audio description.

The problem, however, was the lack of accessibility for first-run films; the need to wait, if anything, after the DVD release, and the obligation to withdraw the aids in the room, therefore having to wait for opportunities "dedicated" to persons with sensory disabilities. This inevitably implied an individual limitation with respect to other sighted people who, as we all known, go to the movies when, where and with whom they want, choosing a film among the many available out there.

New technologies, especially smartphones, and the following innumerable apps, have become a real help for accessibility, opening a gap in that almost compulsory dimension for almost all visually impaired people. In 2011, in Italy, MovieReading was introduced, an app for smartphones and tablets, iOS and Android, providing audio description as well as subtitling for people with a hearing impairment. Needless to recall how difficult it still is to have an accessible film, although it should be the other way around as it happens in other European countries, but we are working hard on this with those who make, produce and distribute movies (they are the ones who should arrive in theatres with audio description and subtitling, as per the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).

MovieReading app logo

It is instead important to speak about the advantages, the use and the possibilities of autonomy that MovieReading app provides. Unlike the older method we mentioned, MovieReading allows people to go to the movie of their choice, and if there is no time for movies, there is the possibility to enjoy audio description with DVDs or on TV. The audio track of the film has to be the original one. The MovieReading app is free, and compatible with the devices visually impaired people generally use. Intuitive and easy to install, it is also provided with a detailed guide, written in simplified Italian to be accessible also by people who are deaf, and readable once the app is installed on the device. It will then be possible to enter the "market" and choose the audio description of the movie of choice, among those available, and click to download it. At this point, the audio description will be found in the "my movies" section.

Once at the theatre, by clicking on the movie title again, MovieReading will automatically synchronize with the movie. In case of problems, pressing again on "Sync" will quickly allow people to use their own earphones and listen to the audio description, always in perfect sync with the soundtrack of the movie. To experience the chance of choosing a movie and going to the theatre, when one wants and can, and accessing films without having to wait months or even years before understanding the buzz around them: priceless. The opportunity to feel included in a society participating in the social media frenzy, making a difference when giving one's opinion on a movie, having the opportunity to participate in a popular vote, and, above all, being able to choose, in full autonomy, to experience the magic of going to the movies with others, and not when it is screened in odd dedicated afternoons is truly invaluable. And that is what MovieReading is about.

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